♫ Wouldn’t You Like to Be A Genius, Too ♫

ImageSometimes I have ideas, and I think I’m a genius. Within a week, I see my genius advertised on television for $19.95. Someone beat me to it.

I have two genius ideas right now:

Genius Idea #1- I think every automobile should have a light bar running from left to right across the back of the car. It will show you the degree to which the driver has applied the brakes. Is Grandpa riding the brake and thereby applying only a little pressure? Just a few lights of the bar will light. Is the driver braking rationally in preparation for a stop? Possibly half of the lights will light. Or has the driver slammed on the brakes because a squirrel darted into the middle of the road and held up a stop sign? All of the lights across the rear end will blind you with their redness. Rear end collisions would be eliminated with my light bar, which is a way better idea than that goofy additional red light in the back window. … The Big Three have ignored my emails.

Genius Idea #2 – We don’t heat our upstairs in the winter. It’s great for sleeping, and with plenty of blankets, it’s always warm and toasty in the bed. Getting out is manageable, but taking off warm pajamas to put on frozen clothing is brutal! This year, I’m putting my clothes for the next day into a box with an electric heating pad hooked up to a timer set to turn on an hour before I get up. I’ll let you know how that invention works out and if the guys at the Shark Tank go for it.

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When I came up with an idea for my next book, I thought I’d hit upon genius again!

I’m a Janet Evanovich fan. In 2008, I picked up the first book in her Stephanie Plum series, and I read it in one sitting. I laughed out loud – something I rarely do when I’m by myself. I read the next thirteen books in the series, plus the in-betweens, in just two weeks.

In Explosive Eighteen, there is quite a bit of action at Stephanie’s apartment in New Jersey. I thought it would be awesome to have Susan and Darby go to New Jersey, stay with his uncle in Stephanie’s apartment building, and their story would run parallel to hers for one weekend. Darby would comment on the passed-out redhead in the hallway, or they would be awakened by multiple gunshots in the middle of the night, and the uncle would bark, “Go back to bed. It’s just the bounty hunter across the hall.”

Genius I tell you! There would be no mention of any names whatsoever. Only an Evanovich fan would catch the references.

But I do my homework. Research and a quick online consultation Imagewith a copyright attorney quickly exposed my folly. Even though no names would be referenced, characters and locations are by design copyrighted. If fictitious characters and locations can be recognized, you cannot use them.

It would have been fun to write, and I was disappointed. This idea came to me out of nowhere. I was working on something else at the time. Why was it dumped into my head by the universe?

Ha! I don’t give up that easily. It’s still a good idea. In my next book, Windy City Hunter, coming to an eReader near you in 2013, I have Susan and Darby staying in a condo in Chicago. I know I want a subplot in the condo, and I still want to use my idea of these two looking in on events from another book.

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Not the book I have in mind.

I’ve been speed-reading Public Domain Books! I’ve already found two possibilities. I’m pretty sure this isn’t an original idea, and when someone reads my book they will likely have no idea what I’ve done, but I’m pleased that an idea fell into my head, and I figured out a way to make it work.

Have you ever used a public domain book when writing? Tell me about your inventions!

C is for Cookie

ImageThese crazy special days tickle my funny bone. Who came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day? National Lumpy Rug Day? Do A Grouch a Favor Day?

Well, John Baur and Mark Summers came up with Talk Like a Pirate Day while playing racquetball. Men after my own heart!

Ever since I discovered Hallmark’s The Ultimate Holiday Site, I check it every day. Some days I smile and shake my head.

Today is Homemade Cookie Day. Here is how the Hallmark site describes it: “This is the one day of the year when you can legally stuff your face with the chewy, gooey goodness that is the cookie. The catch? You have to make them yourself! You don’t want to be caught walking out of the market with cookies wrapped in packaging, do you? The cookie police will not take kindly to that on this sacred day. But you might be able to bribe them with snicker-doodles.”

Snickerdoodles! We are pros at making snickerdoodles here. Our son was taught to bake them at an Imageearly age. He would pack them in empty ice-cream buckets and take them around to the neighbors.

My grandmother made the most amazing sugar cookies. The cookie jar at her house was always full for the grandchildren. We could only have one per visit, and what a special cookie it was! They were big, round, super soft, and always iced with PINK icing.

Grandma eventually gave her recipe to me. I’m a good baker, but I could never get my cookies to come out exactly like hers. She used to laugh when I would question her about leaving out an ingredient. I think the missing ingredient was nothing more than Grandma’s loving hands.

When our son was thrown out of daycare at the tender age of three (he led the charge, opened the door to the outside, and all of the children followed him), I quit my job to stay home and take care of the boy myself. As Christmas neared that first year, I decided to bake Grandma’s sugar cookies for some extra money. Of course the cookies were in Christmas shapes, iced, and decorated.

ImageAll of the girls from the weight loss company were my first customers. I baked for days on end to fill their orders. Word of mouth brought more orders. My sister and I went to craft shows, and I took cookies. They always sold out.

It was an astounding amount of work, and it was exhausting. Our neighbor hadn’t seen me come or go for many days, so he came over and knocked on the door. I was covered from head to toe with flour as I opened the door, and all I said to him was, “Welcome to hell.” He laughed and went home with a dozen cookies.

We burned wood in the fireplace at that time, and the main floor of the house was too warm to store the cookie orders, so I kept them in an unheated room upstairs. I was rushing one day to bring orders down, and I had boxes in both hands. I lost my footing and took a ride down the steps on my rump. I didn’t dare drop the cookies. The cookies survived; I ended up at the chiropractor.

I baked and sold cookies for three Christmases before I hung up my apron. I was sick of Christmas sugar cookies by then, and I don’t eat them anymore. Give me a good homemade snickerdoodle any day!ImageWhat’s your favorite homemade cookie? Do you have a cookie story? Or better yet, a falling down the stairs story?

About You, About Me, About Everyone Else

ImageWhen I land on an interesting blog site, I always look for the About link – and I click it. Rather than to read several blog posts to find out about the blogger, I hope to find some insight on their About page. If the blogger is friendly and appears approachable, I’m more likely to read some posts and follow.

Ruth Ann Nordin recently posted a link to an article entitled, Top 10 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes of Author-Bloggers. I was sure I would find ten more things I wasn’t doing right, but I was pleasantly surprised. Other than no twitter handle, because I don’t tweet, my biggest mistake was my About page. I had nothing on it other than one lousy sentence. I should have known better from my own blog-hopping habits.

In addition to the tips and information the article put forth, I did a little research on how to make the best of your About page. As with many blogging topics, the viewpoints can be subjective, and the pointers for a commercial business vary quite a bit from what I’m putting forth here. My comments are in parenthesis:

Per Google Analytics, your About page is one of your most highly-trafficked pages.

People can’t resist clicking the About page. They want to know who you are and what you are about.

It’s ok to have fun on your page.

Keep your first paragraph short. One to two lines – lines, not sentences.

Tell a good story. A good story hooks them every time.

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Hubby used to pass this picture around and say it was his wife!

Use a good photo of yourself.  (I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t need to see what someone looks like to want to follow their blog or read their books. There are a couple of not-so-good photos of me floating around out there, but I’ll wait until I really need author headshots to post a good photo to my page. … A little positive thinking there!)

Post contact information.  If you’re not including a way for people to contact you outside of the comments section, you may be missing opportunities. (In an effort to keep spam down, I’ve avoided putting my email address out there. I’ve probably kept questions and fan mail down, too.)

Your About page can bring more readers AND more sales.  (I’ll take both, please.)

Write in your own voice. Don’t try to sound like a press release.

Be consistent with your voice. Being upbeat and witty on your blog will have been for naught when someone clicks on your About page and finds it crumbly-dry and boring.

Tell why you are blogging. Do you specialize in a particular subject, or do you cover a variety of topics? Who are you hoping to reach? Your blog will be defined here as one of primarily offering information, help, or a more personal blogging experience.

Show your books. Include a synopsis for each, and have a link for purchase.  Viewpoints vary for this suggestion. Some say your books and links should be visible with every post, others say they should be on your About page, while even others suggest a separate page for your books. (My books are on my home page, and they are now on my About page. I don’t want them showing up in every post; my header makes it pretty clear I have books.) You should, of course, choose what feels right for your blog.

Don’t post your resume. Keep your bio short utilizing one focused paragraph. It is ok, however, to additionally talk about achievements and publications.

Make sure your About link has prominence on your main page.  Preferably at the top of your Imageblog. It’s one of the first places many visitors to a blog go, so make it easy to find.

Backlink. If you have posts you’re particularly proud of because they’ve received tons of comments, or they are just plain wonderful, list them on your About page. (This is a good idea, especially for your Freshly Pressed posts.)

When someone leaves, they should have an idea as to who you are as a person.

I now have a squeaky new About page. I tried to follow some of the pointers – two lines to start, tell a story, why I’m blogging, about my family, contact email, and I shared enough about my books to, hopefully, entice a few new readers.

Let me know if there was anything helpful to you here. Will you be making changes to your About page? Or will you be making your first About page? Was I the only person at WordPress who didn’t utilize the About page?

The Power of Positive Thinking

ImageThere are a multitude of items you can order online nowadays, but I remember something I sent for via our good old postal system before the convenience of the internet. Something that was guaranteed to change my life. I would have love, wealth, and happiness – all of my dreams come true.

I’m an upbeat person. I always look for the good side of everyone and every situation. It can get annoying to others at times. Even our son has told me to back off when he didn’t want to feel better about what was making him blue. I get that. Sometimes, you just have to feel it.

I must have been at a low point about something those many years ago. I really don’t remember; I don’t hang on to negativity very well. But when I saw the ad in the magazine, I simply had to have this miracle, whatever it was. I don’t remember the cost, but I wanted all of the promises. I waited the appropriate six to eight weeks for arrival. On the day it came, I literally tore the box apart to get the magic out.

I sat stunned for a moment.

Inside was a little soapstone dish with a lid. I could hold it in the palm of my hand and close my fingers around it. I removed the lid, and inside was a polished stone. That’s all. I looked in the box to see if Imagethere were instructions. Sure enough, there were. Three times every day, I was to remove the stone, hold it in my hand, and repeat the enclosed mantra. I don’t remember the words, but they were nothing more than a series of positive affirmations for believing in yourself. I remember flopping back on the sofa and laughing at my folly.

But I got a lot of mileage out of that little dish and stone. I used it several years later when I conducted training classes. I shared the story, and I passed the dish and stone around as I gave a quick talk on being positive and believing in yourself whether personally or in your job.

That’s a bit of long story to get to my main topic today, but I appreciate positivity. I appreciate someone who encourages you, instead of someone who drags you down, or makes you feel inadequate, or tells you that you can’t do something.

On Monday, writer Morgan Le Fables posted a link to an almost 13-minute video from Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire. I’ve never heard her speak before. She is charming, sincere, passionate, and very giving with her encouragement and advice.

I took notes.

Here is the link so you can view the video when you have time – Anne Gives Writing Advice, September 18, 2012.  Here are my quick notes:

  • Write every day.
  • Keep what you write. Even if you decide not to use what you write, put it away – keep it.
  • There are no rules in our profession.
  • All you need is a computer, typewriter, or paper and pencil, and you can turn out a War and Peace or an Old Man and the Sea.
  • Write anywhere. In a café, at the kitchen table, in a garage office.
  • People say you can’t break in. That’s not true. Every year people on the outside break in.
  • It’s no harder to get published today than it ever was. New authors come out of nowhere every year.
  • Interview with the Vampire was rejected five times. Don’t give up. Anne was at a writer’s conference when she asked someone to read her manuscript. The woman did, and Anne was off and running.
  • Publishing is crying for new voices, new visions, new stories, new characters.
  • Her friend, author Floyd Salas, said to her, “Go where the pain is. Write about what hurts.”
  • Anne expands to, “Go where the pleasure is.”
  • Write what is exciting to you. Interesting to you. Be excited to want to find out what happens next.
  • Every one of her books has had bad reviews – worst book ever. You can’t win them all, so be sure to turn out what you like.
  • Don’t revise your book because of rejection from an editor. Any editor who rejects your book doesn’t get it.
  • When they love your book and ask for changes, now you can listen.Image
  • Lots of rejections? Do not give up! Self publish! It’s never been easier.
  • There are stories every few weeks of self-published authors being discovered by big publishing houses.
  • You need stubbornness. You need courage. You need faith in yourself.
  • Don’t be cynical. When a New York editor opens your manuscript, they want it to be good.
  • Believe in yourself! Be brave!
  • Nobody can tell you that you can’t do that! Realize your dreams.

Truly, all of this is so much better in Anne’s passionate voice. And there is more than what is in my notes. She is motivating and will give you a lift.

As I run down this crooked road of writing and self-publishing, Anne Rice gave me a bit more confidence that my stubbornness, bravery, and writing because the stories excite and delight me, is the crooked road in the right direction.

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Leave Them Kids Alone

ImagePink Floyd. I’ve always been a Pink Floyd fan. Hubby is a mega-fan, and it’s not unusual to hear Floyd blaring from the den. I’ve had a Pink Floyd lyric running through my head this past week: “Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!” Leave them kids alone. The words shift; the tune remains, “Hey! Maddie! Leave them covers alone!” I’m not making this up. It’s in my head, and it’s annoying.

This evening, I approved the final artwork for the rework of my first cover. I’ve read plenty of articles about covers, and thought I had everything under control. A little more research tonight turned up some interesting tidbits, as there is a plethora of articles related to the mistakes of indie authors.  Ha! Here we go again. I compared my covers to the tips. All of these helpful hints appeared in more than one article:

1. Do not use a family member or relative to do your artwork.  – FAIL

2. Sexy covers are hot right now.  – FAIL

3. Do not put your name in small type in the lower right or left corner.  – FAIL

4. Do not clutter your cover. Design around one element.  – FAIL

5. Quit messing with your cover. Pick a design and stick with it.  – FAIL

6. Changing the cover art can attract new buyers.  – PASS  – Yeah! I passed one! Oh, wait. Basically the change was from one of a boring cover to one of the steamy sex god and goddess covers. – FAIL

I’m happy with my covers. They certainly portray the pink, fluffy, fun, not-too-serious, theme of the books. I think I’ll keep them.

After watching the Emmys …

ImageI was inspired to have an awards ceremony. Some very special bloggers have been kind enough to nominate me for awards. I’ve always been a little shy about this award thing, as I don’t feel I’ve done anything here to warrant any type of award, but I realize we nominate the bloggers we enjoy, and we help bring attention to other blogs as well. I’ve found some wonderful people by following the recommendations of those who have nominated others. So without further ado, let me catch up with awards today.

On June 18, Lightningpen nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

July 31 brought a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from The Living Notebook.

On August 3, T.W. Dittmer grouped his nominees together for the Very Inspiring Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. My name was on his list.

On August 7, Zen Scribbles nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

August 12, I was nominated for the Family of Bloggers Award by Paula Acton.

August 18 brought One Lovely Blog Award from The Cheeky Diva.

A great big “thank you” to all of you who nominated me. If you aren’t presently following any of the above people, please check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Most of these awards require you to tell seven things about yourself and then nominate other bloggers for the same award. There is no way you want to hear that many things about me, so I’ll just do one set of seven for the lot:

1. My highest bowling score was 245. I was chatting with a girlfriend about her wedding, and having to get up to bowl was a distraction. When someone pointed out to me that I had rolled seven strikes in a row, the spell was broken.

2. The movie Camelot reduces me to a crying, blubbering mess – every time.

2. I love playing Scrabble.

4. My first car was a used, orange Ford Maverick with a black stripe from front to back over the hood Imageand top. My first new car was a GREMLIN! I “designed” it myself with chocolate brown paint, white stripes down both sides, slightly wider wheels with awesome hubcabs, and an automatic on the floor. It was a fantastic car, it never embarrassed me, and I had it for over ten years.

5. I was Track Queen in high school. Not Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen – track queen.

6. The first year I played racquetball, I won our state’s tournament as a novice.

7. When going out to eat, the first thing I look for on the menu is a Reuben sandwich.

For the Family of Bloggers Award, you tell what attributes you bring to the family, using an anagram of the word FAMILY:

F – flexible (in my reactions to people and situations)
A- affable
M – merciful
I – imaginative
L – loyal
Y – youthful (in spirit)

On to the Nominations!!

ImageBeautiful Blogger Award – I chose these people because their blogs are visually appealing:
Canadian Hiking Photography
Richert Images
Mark Armstrong Illustration
Charlie’s Photo Blog
The Way I See

ImageVery Inspiring Blogger Award -Inspiration comes in many forms. I nominate this fine mix of blogs for this award:
Nicolette Reed
Human Nature and Superpowers
Daniel Koeker
The Word by Mike Ballenger
Gas Station Gastronomy

ImageOne Lovely Blog – There are lovely people, things, and sentiments at all of these blogs:
Simplicity Lane
In a Grand Fashion
The Bookstore Lady
Retired Ruth
Sumthissumthat (especially his wife’s artwork)

ImageSisterhood of the World Bloggers – Ladies you will enjoy:
Rendevous with Renee
Keri Peardon
Michelle Proulx Official
That Girl Who Reads Books
The Jenny Mac Book Blog

ImageFamily of Bloggers – These people are like family to me and are listed in the order that I met them:
Zen Scribbles
Tessa Sheppard
T.W. Dittmer
Robin Coyle
Cheeky Diva

Phew! Thank you all so much!

12 Tips – How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

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I get a kick out of everyone who stresses over their stats and checks them many times throughout the day – if not the hour. I often forget to check my stats. Better stats still scare me. I liken it to being on a stage while an audience watches and listens. Will they get up and walk out? Will they laugh at the humor moments? Will they enjoy themselves? Will they throw tomatoes?Image

Even on days when my post might be a stinker, I’m grateful for the people who come by and push the Like button. A comment is icing on the cake, and because I know how both make me feel, I try to be supportive of the blogs I follow and comment when I can without saying something too stupid (and oh, yeah, I have done that). I even click many of the links on blog posts. I’ve found some interesting people and things on the other side of those clicks.

I noticed a few minutes ago that the next comment to my blog will be the 600th comment. Here are a few more of my stats:

  • My total views doubled from July to August.
  • The highest number of views I’ve had on any one day was 74. That’s fine with me (see paragraph one again).
  • I have 153 followers. My husband was surprised I had that many. Me, too.
  • The dog Muttley was #2 on my list of most hits through search engines, with “horse poo” being in the top ten.
  • I’ve never been, and I never want to be Freshly Pressed. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say never, but not for a long time, that’s for sure.

So, why have I had the recent urge to search for ways to get better stats?

Because having people visit my blog, if only for a moment or two, puts my name and Susan Hunter’s Imagename out there. And someone who likes pink or mysteries might stay around a little longer to see what we’re about.

By the time I was done wading through articles and blogs, I actually had a lot of information about getting more blog visitors. Some of it was technical and pertained more to a business than a personal blog. A lot of it was what most people already know – visit other blogs, leave comments and likes, respond to comments on your own blog, add graphics, shorter is better than longer … but the following are some additional suggestions. I’m not attributing them to any one person or article, because they are fairly generic, and I encountered them in multiple places. Some of the information came from the gurus right here at WordPress.

#1 – Your blog should express what you’re most passionate about. I definitely see this on many blogs, but if someone had said this to me before I started blogging, I probably wouldn’t have even tried. I’m supposed to be, and am mostly, chronicling my writing journey, which is not yet a passion as much as it is a wonderment.

#2 – Are you blogging to help people, be a resource, and make a difference? Or to make you famous? Well, let’s be honest.  I’m not doing much here to help people. I’m definitely not a resource. And nothing I write will make a difference in the world. I’m sort of leaning to the famous side – you know, the book thing. Everyone says if that’s the case, then you should quit now. So, if you don’t see me after today, I took their advice and packed it in.

#3 – Post only one post per week.

#4 – Post Often.  Obviously, there was a mix of advice as to how often to post. Some say multiple times per day, others say writing and posting too often leads to weak writing, but the majority thought posting often would lead to the best results – every day or every other day would keep the search engines happy, too.

#5 – Analyze your blog’s competition.  What?! We are in competition with each other? I had no idea, and I refuse to play along.

#5 – Don’t blog about your pet, your boyfriend, husband, or your kids. I’m already turning people away. I probably had 1,000 followers and they are dropping like flies. My husband and our dead dogs come up often. My kid is not yet off the hook, and I don’t agree with this. There are loads of blogs with families at the heart of them, and frankly, I like them.

#6 – People want you to talk about them, not you. -and- Write in the second person.  I generally want to visit my favorite blogs to see what each person is up to. I like it when they talk about what they’re doing or accomplishing. And what’s with writing in the second person? You. Your. Yours. I always thought second person was best used for e-mail, presentations, and professional writing. I can see this on a more information driven blog than a personal blog.

#7 – Tell stories. -and- Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t bore your readers.  I’ve got that covered – sort of. Book stuff, stories, bits of information. There are different topics simply because I have no idea where I’m going here.

#8 – Guest post on other blogs. Crikey, this is good advice, and for most of you, it would work, but I have enough trouble finding something to say here without getting on someone else’s stage, too.

#9 – Use numbers in your title to indicate lists, and the words “how to.” These are highly searched key Imagewords, and we are a list-making society, as well as a people who want to know how to do things. Got that covered today!

#10 – Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts.  I think there is a lot to be said for keyword search. I simply haven’t taken the time to put enough thought to it yet. But using keywords in your title and in your post will definitely bring more hits, and hopefully, more readers to your blog. There are entire sites devoted to keywords. Working a high-ranking keyword or two into every post can be extremely beneficial. I came across an article from a blogger who had passed the million hit mark. He swears by keyword search – even writing entire articles about random topics just so he could include high-value keywords.

#11 – Turn your articles and blog posts into PDFs, then submit your PDFs to document sharing sites like Scribd.  “Scribd is the world’s largest online library, making it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices.” This is perfect for bloggers who share great information, but there are also books, recipes, and other interesting writing here. Hold your cursor over the word “explore” at the top to see the numerous categories. And there are some awesome Geek types on the About page.

#12 – Start using Pinterest to post pictures from your blog.  I did this as soon as I found the tip. It takes a little time, but you’ll want to go to the actual blog post to grab your image to pin. That way, each picture will link back to the post where it was used. Ideally, you should label your picture with a bit of information about the blog post. I may do that later. I knew I was putting goofy pictures out there last night. There are usually lovely pictures flowing across the Pinterest landscape, and I dropped goofiness on it. I didn’t care; I did it anyway. My Pinterest page. My whopping two followers haven’t ditched me yet.Image

This was a long one today, but I hope it was helpful.

As I started this post a couple of days ago, my 600th comment came and went. It was from Jennings Wright who is amazing and has written four books – in different genres! Please check out her blog – and consider buying one of her books.

Peddling Wares – An Idea

ImageOn my recent trip home from the grocery store, I drove past our in-progress county fair. The rides and food booths were situated along the chain link fence running along the road. As I tried to quickly take in the sights, a light bulb went off over my head.

We haven’t been to the fair since our son was young, but I enjoy the fair. I love the animals – all of them – even the smelly ones. Ahh! I almost forgot! We got our beloved dog, Joe, at the fair! Well, sort of. The people from the dog pound were there with dogs for adoption. All three of us decided that our shepherd at home needed a brother, so we picked out a black and tan coon hound with red ticking on his chest. Our son was excited and named him Ticker. When we went to the pound to get him the next day, there was a mix-up, and Ticker wasn’t there, he was back at the fair. But his brother was at the pound. He looked like Ticker, he seemed to like us, so we went with him. I named him Joe.

Back to the subject of the fair. The rides are ok, but we really like fair food, and one of my favorite thingsImage to do is walk through the commercial buildings where everyone peddles their wares. All of the home improvement gurus are there, the hot tub people, local businesses, craft people … there’s a lot going on. And we go through collecting cards, pens, advertising pieces, etc.  Some of it is useful; some of it is junk.

The light bulb over my head was a flash of an idea. A flash of a booth at the fair with posters of each of my book covers on the walls, print on demand copies of my books for sale on the table, bookmarks, and lots and lots of cards with my website for eReaders. I love this idea!

Of course, I had to tell hubby as soon as he came home from work. He didn’t share my enthusiasm. With a sideways glance and a frown he said, “It sounds like work.” A trade show. It sounded like working a trade show to him. Well, duh.

ImageI assured him it would be fun; it was the fair! And we would have fun together schmoozing with the locals. And the fair is full of old people during the day, and he LOVES old people (I’m six years older than he is), and old people love him, and old people would like my books.

I think I saw his shoulders slump.

“Next year, honey. Not this year. Next year. We’ll have fun,” I said as I walked out of the den. I think I heard a choice word under his breath. I’ll post pictures of him having fun in my booth next year when we go to the fair.

I’m sure this isn’t an original idea. I’d like to know if any of you have done this or something equivalent, and how did it go for you? I think it’s a good chance to get in front of a lot of people who read – both young and old. Someone tagged one of my books at Amazon as young adult. I never really thought about it, but the books are certainly not objectionable, and a young adult reader might enjoy them.

Also, about print on demand. When you want one copy of your book, or just a few, or quite a few for the fair, who do you use? I may want to print a few copies for Christmas gifts this year, but am uncertain where to turn. Recommendations are appreciated.

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Baby Joe – home from the fair.

The Bag Sucker 100

National Talk About Your Book Day was a success, so I’m moving on to something new. A product endorsement!

After a trip to the grocery store today, and after the groceries were put away, I was left with all of the meat on the counter. It needed to be repackaged for the freezer. It used to be a daunting task, especially when wrapping multiple times in an effort to keep freezer burn at bay.

ImageI longed for a bag-sucker. A vacuum sealer for food. I fondly referred to the popular, expensive machine as the Bag Sucker 9000. I was jealous when my sister got one. She rubbed it in my nose how fantastic it was. I pleaded with my family for a Bag Sucker 9000 multiple years for Christmas, but to no avail.

Imagine my delight when I was cruising the Walmart aisles one day and found the Reynolds Handi-Vac. A Bag Sucker 5000! How cool was this! Forget the shape. Forget that it needed a dozen batteries to Imageoperate. Well, five. But it was sooo cool! Just put the food in the bag, place the bag sucker over the hole, cross your eyes and hold your mouth just right, and it would take all the air out of the bag. Sometimes holding it up against the kitchen cabinet helped to seal it, too. The food was freezer-burn free, and I think I started with the Bag Sucker 5000 for under $20 – or maybe $30. I was pretty happy. I even rubbed my sister’s nose in it as to how much cheaper I could seal meat than she could.

For a while.

The Reynolds people stopped servicing their product. The bags were no longer available unless you bought them from HSN (at that time), and they only came in one size. What?! I wasn’t jumping through hoops just to get the bags, and the batteries were almost dead anyway, so I chucked it into the kitchen junk drawer. Sigh. Thanks a lot, Reynolds.

At least a year later, I’m cruising the Walmart aisles again, and I spot the Ziploc Vacuum Pump. Oh, this is swell. Hand operated, and I have to pump it? The Bag Sucker 100. I got started for under $10.00.

ImageThis cheap plastic gizmo is fantastic! I give it 5-stars, and it works even when there are no batteries or electricity in the house. It’s easy, it’s fast, the bags stay sealed, and I don’t have to cross my legs or stand on my head to get it to work. There are never any freezer burns. Seriously, if you don’t have a Bag Sucker 100, you must run out and get one.

My sister had surgery last Christmas Eve. My husband and I ran down to the hospital again on Christmas morning to see her. I gave my gift to her there at the hospital. It was a cruel thing to do because it made her laugh, which, in turn, made her hurt. It was a Bag Sucker 100. I found out later she gave her expensive Bag Sucker 9000 to her daughter, and she only uses the cheap plastic Ziploc sealer now,

Take a look at lovely Melanie here as she demonstrates the ease of use of the Bag Sucker 100. She even freezes meat for seven weeks (or months, I don’t remember), and then she shows you the end result. Pretty impressive, and she gives the product an A.

You’re welcome.

It’s National Talk About Your Book Day

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OK, I made that up, but feel free to use it. Someone has to make up these national days. We’ll be sharing this day with punch, because it really is National Punch Day. As in fruit punch.

Anyway, I try to talk with my mother often, and she wears the hat of proofreader and editor for me. Two days ago, her eyes were bothering her, and she was having trouble seeing. Yesterday, she was reading a book. Fickle eyes. She was reading a murder mystery with an Amish setting. Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron? Our local paper isn’t filled with accounts of murders at the cheese factory. She told me this book was from a store, she paid almost $13 for it, it has a publisher – and she found a mistake! I laughed out loud. She said there was one sentence where the word “that” was printed in error twice – “that that.” That is hilarious because “that” is my nemesis in my writing, and this lady got away with it twice.

My mother has given me great encouragement with my books, and she is my biggest fan. She turned 81 this year, and I’m grateful we’ve been able to share this ray of sunshine in our lives together.

So, here are some of the things Mom and I have been talking about this week.

Sunshine Hunter – More copies are selling now that the price has been reduced to 99 cents. I took the plunge and picked up yet more advertising from September through December, with this book being highlighted the week of December 16-22.

Big Apple Hunter and Sin City Hunter – Both appear to occasionally be purchased as individual titles, but most of the sales seem to come in clusters, as though someone read the first book and came back for the next two.

Big Easy Hunter – This is my new release this month. The fifty sales are still standing at Smashwords. I promise I’ll let you know if they are taken back, but in the meantime, these fifty put me in the top ten of their bestsellers if you sort by bestseller/full/$2.99 or less. The first time I noticed this, my book was in the #7 spot; today it is #8. I hope this, too, will help with sales. I’m still waiting for the book to get to B&N, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, etc.  I’m actually in a bit of a panic for it to show up at B&N, because this is the book I chose for my advertising next week, and if it’s not there, I can’t use it.

I don’t know why I’m so hesitant to tell people about my books. Last week, I finally told some ladies, who I’ve been on a book list with for years, about the series. They were surprised I kept my writing a secret for so long. Several of them bought books right away, and one woman wrote to tell me that she finished Sunshine Hunter in two days and loved it. I stuck one of my Sunshine Hunter cards up on the bulletin board at the grocery store that day.

I also think something cool might have happened today. I’m not sure. An email from Amazon showed up in an email account that is not associated with my books. It suggested books I might be interested Imagein. Sunshine Hunter was in the subject line, and was first on the list at 99 cents with the following books higher in price. The cynic in me thought it was something bogus. I risked viruses and clicked on every link in the email; they were all good. I’m hoping this, too, is legitimate, and maybe my book is being promoted on some of Amazon’s spammy lists.

It’s a good day to talk about your book.

Formatting for Smashwords

ImageFormatting your book before sending it up to be chewed and spit out by the meatgrinder at Smashwords takes time, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

I’m new at writing, editing, and formatting, and I freely admit to making sensational mistakes as I try to figure everything out, but as my last three books went up without a hitch, I’m simply going to try to show/tell you what I do that makes surviving the meatgrinder and passing the AutoVetter easy.

The information is only 1300 words, but with the illustrations, it’s quite long, so I didn’t want to put the entire thing in a blog post. It’s in a .pdf file.

If you are formatting a simple book with front matter, a linked table of contents, text with nothing more than bold, italics, underline, etc., and back matter – a simple, straightforward book – then you can use this guide for formatting:

Easy Formatting for Smashwords

You might wonder why I put the time into this. Well, it will make it easier for me in the future. I do get tired of scrolling through the Style Guide on my Nook to find the sections that pertain to formatting my book(s).

Also, my new friend, a fellow Ohioan, Marcus Matherne at Voices in His Head blog, wrote a funny book and paid someone to format it for him. He asked if I had any tips, and I told him I had been thinking about a blog post pertaining to formatting.

So there you have it. Boring blog post, but maybe it will help someone.

Disclaimer: If you follow my formatting instructions and you didn’t back up a copy of your book first, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Is Your Book Dialogue Heavy?

ImageIt was a busy weekend that included a trip to a library book sale and a stop at a Barnes & Noble to replace my defective Nook Tablet. I then spent a considerable amount of time working with all of the children’s books piling up around here. I’ll be busy this week until I catch up.

I also took some time to do some reading. I have a couple of hardcover books that I started quite a while ago, and I wanted to finish them. One was a mystery; the other was chick-lit.  Both were good stories, but I found myself feeling irritated with the latter. There was too much dialogue, and I became weary of listening in on conversations. I was relieved when there were short bursts of description or information. The story moved too quickly with nearly all of it told in dialogue. New characters came on the scene and added to the conversation with nary an introduction made. There were entire chapters, albeit short, consisting entirely of dialogue. I forced myself forward to the predictable ending.

Have you ever had ice cream that seemed whipped, full of air, and not satisfying? ImageThat’s what this book was like – full of air. The actual story itself seemed small. The book was by a well-known author who has published many books. This is their style.

I did a few online searches, and there are articles, blog posts, and opinions that are as numerous as the stars about dialogue. Some say there is no such thing as too much dialogue, and others say there is. Many of the comments fell into two camps:

Pro: Many new writers have too much exposition in their writing and not enough dialogue.
Con: Characters are loud when they talk too much, and they need to shut up so the story can move forward.

Writing style is subjective. What one person enjoys, another may dislike. I found this heavy use of dialogue interesting. I don’t recall it from my past years of being a voracious reader. Is this a fairly new thing?

I grabbed a couple of books from my bookcase. One from the 50’s, and one from the 60’s. The book from the 50’s has a style I enjoy. There is plenty of dialogue, but everything in the scene isn’t explained in dialogue. Perusing one chapter, I find a nice mix of dialogue and paragraphs which show and/or tell.  Instead of two characters talking about something that happened previously, it’s more enjoyable to read about the experience – which is more detailed with descriptions and feelings than their conversation would convey. The book from the 60’s seems to have a ratio of 40:60 with dialogue being the former. This book, too, was more enjoyable to me than the current book.

I checked several vintage books that are in the public domain. Three that I looked through were similar with pages and pages without dialogue, but when dialogue was used, one person might talk for a full one to two pages on my Nook. There were some long-winded people back in the day. One of the books seemed to have a nice balance between dialogue and exposition, but none were dialogue heavy.

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Just because I like giraffes.

As a reader, I know what I like. I know I’ve read dialogue heavy books before and haven’t always enjoyed them, but I didn’t realize why. As a new writer, I tend to look at styles more closely now, and am more aware of why I like or dislike a style.

This isn’t a case for or against heavy dialogue. I was simply aware of why I found reading one particular book more irritating than enjoyable.

Have you noticed if there are styles of writing that aren’t as enjoyable to you as others?

Don’t Play the Lottery? Maybe You Should

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There is no talk of writing, book sales, or marketing today. We are playing the lottery today, and I’m going to share with you how I win.

The lottery commercials in our state always proclaim, “Odds are, you’ll have fun!” Obviously, they can’t say, “Odds are, you’ll win!” because the odds are definitely against you.

Do you know someone who has won the lottery?

A friend of my husband’s was in a big pool at his place of work. When they won, fifty people shared 75 million. After the first wave of taxes, they each had about $450,000.

A girlfriend of mine has a best friend (obviously, I’m not her best friend) who won several million dollars in the Massachusetts lottery. She moved away, and my friend never heard from her best friend again.

A man in our town is an acquaintance of mine, and this year, he won $10,000 on scratch-off tickets – TWICE. His wins were one week apart.

People do win.

I remember when the lottery started in our state. On that first day, I stopped on my way home from work and spent about $50 on scratch-off tickets. I took them back to my apartment and spread them out on the kitchen table. I knew I was going to be a BIG winner. I wasn’t. I never played the lottery again.

Until a few years ago.

I’d take $10 and go buy five $2 tickets. I was surprised at how often one of them was a $20 winner. I thought if moved on to $5 tickets, I could win more money. Yep. I occasionally won $50 or $100. Hmm … how about $10 tickets? Oh, boy! There were $500 tickets in there!

I figured out that you needed to buy more than one ticket, and rather than to buy several different games, you needed to stick with just one or two.

ImageOf course, I worked my way up to $20 tickets. You have to be brave to scratch off $20 tickets, because when they’re losers, it’s just like standing over the toilet and flushing a $20 bill down while you wave buh-bye.

However, if you’re going to play the lottery, do your homework.

Every so often, I check online to see which $20 tickets still have large prize amounts available and how many are left. I compare each ticket side by side until I’ve chosen the top two with the best odds and the best prizes remaining. I only play the top ticket. If the store I’m in doesn’t have it, I’ll go with the second best, but I don’t allow myself to be tempted by anything else.

I don’t play scratch-off tickets every day. Many times, I only buy one ticket a month. If I hit a winner of $100 or more, I use 70% for whatever we want or need at the time, and I reinvest 30% (if I want to).

I’ve scratched off many, many $100 winners. Last summer, we had guests coming for two weeks, and I was wishing I had extra money. The next time I was at the grocery store, I slipped two twenty-dollar bills into the lottery machine and bought two of my top game. The first ticket was a $500 winner; the ticket behind it was $100. The next day, I went to my mother’s. I ran to the store to get something for her, and I bought just one more of my top game. It was another $500 winner. I set aside the thousand and reinvested the rest; I scratched yet another $500 ticket. Within a week and a half, I had $1500 set aside for nothing more than having a good time with our guests.

We have repaired vehicles, gone out to dinner, bought things we wanted – I PAID FOR MY FIRST BOOK COVER – all with lottery money. There were many times I would throw $50 at our son, smile, and simply say, “lottery.”

As for the bigger games … I don’t play them. Oh, sometimes we’ll grab one ticket when a pot gets obscenely big, but I really don’t want to win a massive amount of money. I can tell myself all day long it wouldn’t change me – but I’m afraid it would. I’ve seen firsthand how money changes people.

I play our state’s Rolling Cash 5. The pot is usually $100,000 before taxes, and someone wins it all the time. I pay my $1.00 a day for my chance to win just enough money to make things interesting around here.

I’ve been playing the Rolling Cash 5 for three years. I’ve won $300 four times; I’ve had numerous $10 winners, and several times each month, I get my lousy dollar back. I’m ahead of the game, so I bide my time until it’s my turn to win.

Some people sew, scrapbook, garden, or have any number of hobbies. Me? I play the lottery. The ads are right – I do have fun. Do you play the lottery? If so, what’s your biggest win so far?

Oh! I almost forgot! Here are my two biggest wins. They were each $1,000 winners. The first in January of 2010 when I bought two tickets. The second in February of 2010 when I bought just one ticket. They are both the same game – my top game pick at the time. ImageImageDisclaimer #1: If you have a gambling problem, if your budget is stretched to the limit, or if you think the lottery is only for poor, dumb people, please disregard everything I have written in this post.

Disclaimer #2: The information/comments in this post are my own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone who does or does not know me.

The Fortune Cookie Writer Was High

Promotion:

The suspicious book sales at Smashwords remain, but things seem to be normal at Amazon. My book went live early Monday evening, and in the first twenty-four hours, nine copies were sold.

I’m happy with that number. Obviously, my six known fans showed up to buy the book. Other than the yammering I do here, and to my Imagefriends and relatives, no one knows about my books. I haven’t promoted them anywhere.

The one-day promo for this newest book is scheduled for the end-of-the month, but after that, I really should put more thought into how I want to get the word out. With Christmas right around the corner, and a new Kindle coming out, it would be foolish to do nothing and simply hope for the best.

The Next Book:

I transferred my handwritten notes for Windy City Hunter to a word.doc today (Tuesday). I tried to put them in some type of order, so I could see how the story would progress.

I love the idea of Susan and her friend going to Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. I begged my brother for one of his pizza recipes. They are unique, and definitely prize-worthy, but he still has hopes of opening his own pizza shop one day, so I received a resounding “NO.”

The idea of something happening at the condo where they’ll be staying is one I want to keep. A nosy doorman, something happening across the hall from them – there are good possibilities there.

Then there’s the Santa with his kettle outside the cooking contest. He’s really a detective and keeping an eye on the comings and goings of one of the contestants.

I can’t wait to start writing again!

But I’ll have to.

After reading and editing all four books in a little over a month, I am really tired of these people and need a break. They’ve overstayed their welcome at my house. Go home, Susan, and just stay out of trouble for a while. Eat a Reuben sandwich.

ImageFortune:

It was a bit of an under-the-weather day for me today (Tuesday). Mostly fatigue, and I didn’t feel like cooking supper for hubby. I ran down the street and grabbed Chinese for us. We split a Moo Goo Gai Pan, because I didn’t want anything spicy. I wanted bland.

Hours later, the lone fortune cookie remained on the counter. Whose fortune was it? His or mine?

I took the dog out for a short walk, and when I came back, the cookie was gone; the fortune lie on the counter. It belongs to him now. I say he’s screwed.

Interpretations appreciated.Image

I’ll Be Rich in No Time

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That snarky interviewer I had around here the other day jinxed me. I didn’t even have my newest book up at Smashwords for twenty-four hours, and I found an error. But it’s not glaring, it would likely pass you by (it would!), and I fixed it before I published at Amazon. So, if you entered the betting pool for republishing, there are still no winners.

But something really cool happened after I published at Smashwords Sunday night. Within the hour. Did you catch that? WITHIN THE HOUR, I sold 50 books. Fifty. Fitty. Yep. Do the math. 50 books at $2.99 each before fees. At that hourly rate, I’ll be a millionaire within a year! (Click the graphic for a closer look.)

ImageAre you ready to leave comments and congratulate me for writing such an awesome book, that I sold FIFTY copies within the first hour?

Yeah, don’t bother.

I’m a realist. There’s no way 50 copies of my book sold within the first hour – especially at Smashwords. So what happened? I have a few theories.

– It’s a glitch.

– It’s someone using a credit card fraudulently as they try to amass money through affiliate programs. This happened last month at Smashwords, and they eventually reversed the fraudulent sales. I’m expecting this to happen to me in the coming weeks.

But let’s pretend it wasn’t a glitch or fraud! Play along now. What could it be?

– Someone who works for a library saw the book go up as newly published, and they needed more chick-lit, because the patrons can never get enough chick-lit. They bought FIFTY copies for eBook distribution.

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Louie B. and Piglet are today’s Ray of Sunshine to entice Secret Admirer to buy more books.

Or my favorite theory …

– I have a secret admirer who reads my blog and is so happy with the ray of sunshine I bring to his/her life every day, that he/she bought FIFTY copies just to throw some money my way.

That’s the one I’m going with until Smashwords reverses the sale(s).

What? Do you have a better theory?

Do You Want to Kill Your Blog Posts?

And now for something completely different. This will be an educational post!

I was doing a simple search for a problem I was having with my WordPress reader. An unrelated link Imageshowed up, but the title was interesting, so I clicked it. If you would like to bypass my babbling altogether, go straightaway here and get the professional’s original version:

12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time by Neil Patel at SEOmoz

Before I share the highlights of the article and my thoughts, you should know that I had to do another search to find out what SEO meant. Search Engine Optimization. Oh, I see. That makes sense. So here we go …

1. Crafting cute, clever or confusing headlines (or really bad ones)

Patel says, “The goal of the headline is to stop readers cold and draw them into your post. You can’t do that if you use cute, clever or confusing headlines.”

Strike one against me. I never craft my title with search engines in mind, but maybe you should if you want people to come to your blog. He goes on to say, “You can stop readers cold, however, if you write headlines that are unique, ultra-specific, useful or urgent.”

2. Never linking to old posts

What?! I didn’t know this was a good idea. In that case, read these posts:

Erotica (Blush) – where I freak out about today’s romance books. I had no idea mainstream romance novels had moved into the porn arena.

Always Check for One in the Chamber – where I tell the tale of the day my husband shot himself. In our house, it’s considered humor.

3. Never linking to other bloggers

I’m getting better at this now that I have some relationships with other bloggers. Here is a link to a blogImage I found 45 seconds ago. I typed the word pizza into the WP search engine, and scrolled through the posted links with pictures. I was stopped by this cute guy and his master making pizza. Stop by and take a look – This Little Italian Cooks. I am now a follower.

4. Forgetting to fill out your page title and description fields

Yeah. Ok. I don’t have a clue. I’ll need to do more research on this. Patel talks about plug-ins and Nutella.

5. Creating clunky URLs

Patel says, “If you want to give your post a fighting chance in the SEO landscape, then you have to include recognizable words in your URL. This means keywords, too.”

Ooh, I never thought about this. And I’ve had a website for sixteen years. I’m a moron.

6. Plagiarizing other bloggers

I’m not guilty of this! But I’ve seen some nasty comments between bloggers when one quotes another without credit. Don’t do that!

I don’t believe I am plagerizing Neil Patel because I’m admitting all of the intelligent stuff in this post belongs to him. Neil Patel. From a post on SEOmoz.

7. Publishing less than one post per month

There are bloggers who I wish would post more often. I enjoy their posts. But even if they only posted once a month, I would still be happy to see them in my Reader. I do understand that the search spiders won’t be kind to you though.

8. Writing big blocks of copy

Patel says, “Writing short paragraphs is a basic blog post writing law. Just like simple words and short sentences. Resort to long blocks of copy and you are stacking the deck against your blog post.” He goes on to point out that people will only stick around and read until they’re bored.

I’ve found this to be true. Sometimes, I read a blog post, and it’s good, and I think I’m at the end, but it goes on and on for as long or longer than what I’ve already read. I’m easily distracted. I sometimes leave.

P.S. – I love Patel. He just gave credence to my use of simple words and short sentences.

9. Zero presence on any social media platforms

In addition to your blog, he recommends Twitter, Facebook, and especially Google+.

Me = FAIL

I have a presence on Twitter and Facebook, but they scare me too much to use them.

10. Never inviting readers to leave comments

I’m hesitant to do this. It feels like begging for comments. I hope I will come across as approachable, and people will feel comfortable to leave comments, yet I appreciate the bloggers who ask a question, because I’m more likely to respond.

ImageFor example, Sarah at Earful of Cider is running a poetry contest about BACON until Monday night at midnight. The prize is a nifty mug. Sarah says, “Lay your bacon poetry on me – bacon haiku, sonnets, limericks, couplets, spectrism, reverse verse, Purple Cows Sows, nursery rhymes, cinquains, whatever.” She is friendly and inviting – and she’s a librarian. Hubby and I both entered her contest. Here is the poem I would not allow hubby to submit:

Slice it, smoke it, fry it up quick.
Make sure it’s done, or it might make you sick.
Splattering grease burn, it looks like a freckle.
An apron protects you, especially your schmekel.

I’ve admitted to Sarah that we are really twelve year olds.

11. Writing about a topic nobody cares about

Been there. Done that. Some days, it’s a crapshoot.

12. Giving up

Patel says some successful blogs didn’t take off until they were two years in, and most people quit by nine months.

Never give up! Never surrender! ~Commander Jason Nesmith

Seriously …

Neil Patel wrote a great article complete with graphics and loads of links to even more information. It’s extremely helpful, especially to a new blogger. There are 130 comments, and some of the information in the comments section is as good as the article itself. So, if you haven’t already done so, hop on over to read Neil Patel’s 12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time.

What do you think will kill a blog post? Should I teach more often? Will you be entering the bacon contest?

(Look at me! Asking questions!)

My First Book Interview

ImageI’m finally finished with the editing for my newest book, Big Easy Hunter.

I think the occasion calls for an interview to promote the book. There weren’t any good interviewers around, so I had to go with who was available, and he asked begged to remain anonymous.

Q. Oh, come on. Is the editing really finished?
A. It’s as finished as it’s going to be.

Q. Let the betting pool begin! How many days will elapse before she republishes the book because of errors?
A. Smartass. I’m expecting there will be no republishing of Big Easy Hunter.

Q. Did you get rid of all 144 exclamation points?Image
A. Well … not really.

Q. How many did you keep?
A. (gulp) 101

Q. You’re kidding! Oh my gosh! How could you keep 101?!!
A.  My characters are easily excited – like you, obviously.

Q. Is someone wearing a hat and following her in this book, too? What is it with you and hats?
A. Hats are back in fashion. Don’t you watch television? That sexy Matt Bomer on White Collar looks really great in a hat. And, no, there’s no one following Susan in this book. She turns the tables and follows someone else for a change.

Q. In one of your whiny blog posts, you said this book had two beginnings, one middle, and two ends. How can you possibly justify or even explain that? Who does that?
A. It’s easy, and it makes perfect sense. After the opening make-out scene, the reader soon learns there is a rapist over by the mall. If that isn’t enough excitement for you, Susan has been spotted breaking into houses in the middle of the night. That’s a pretty good beginning, wouldn’t you say?

Q. Middle. What’s the middle?
A. Well, we have to leave the beginning, because Susan goes to New Orleans to attend a wedding. There isn’t a middle yet, because we need another beginning.

Q. Maddie, you’re embarrassing yourself.
A. No. Pay attention. This works. Susan can’t help herself. She does something that sets into motion a whole heap of trouble for her while she’s in New Orleans. That’s the second beginning! She does something with a dog in some bushes, and –

Q. Stop! Aren’t your books supposed to be rated G. Or maybe PG?
A. You’re a bit pervy, aren’t you? The dog steals things from the house, and he shows them to Susan. What she does next is the beginning. See? We have a new mystery here in New Orleans. That’s three great mysteries in one book. Pretty clever, huh?

Q. Middle. Is there a middle somewhere in this book?Image
A. Well, if the middle is supposed to be the action, then what happens in New Orleans is the middle. There’s a lot of action – Susan steals something, there are threats, there’s an explosion, an abduction, lots of knives –

Q. Ok, we get the picture. End? Is there an end to this?
A. Of course. The first ending is in New Orleans. There’s a great climax in a cemetery, and Mick is there, and there is crying … and it’s really good.

Q. After that?
A. After that, she goes back home and has an ending to the mysteries there.

Q. But the story at home has to have a middle. What’s the middle?
A. I told you. There is no middle. Everything happens off camera until the second ending.

Q. Oh my gosh! This is painful. What’s the second ending?
A. I can’t tell you. But my dearly departed dead dog is in the ending. Only he’s not dead in the book. He’s alive. And he belongs to a neighbor. He’s part of the climax, and next week, for $2.99 at Amazon.com, you can find out what he does that’s so great.

Q. I can’t take any more. I’m done. I have to ask the obligatory final question. Will there be another ImageSusan Hunter book?
A. Oh, you bet! Susan and Darby are headed to Chicago to compete in a cooking competition. The book will be titled, Windy City Hunter. I haven’t figured out yet how many beginnings, middles, and endings to have.

Q. I’m exhausted. Don’t call me when you’re done writing that one. Find someone else for your interview.
A. Ok. Toodles!!

Reading Your Fellow Bloggers

One hundred thirty-two.

I was surprised to see I was following 132 blogs. Thankfully, some of the bloggers don’t post very often, and one hasn’t posted a single word yet, but I’m waiting. That seems kind of stalkerish, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, I like the mix of people I follow. There are wonderful photographers, and I enjoy seeing their work show up in my reader. I lean heavily toward the humor blogs. I do enjoy a good laugh, and it’s fun to interact with witty people. (Christopher De Voss, I’m looking at you. I can’t even begin to tell you how much mileage my husband and I have gotten out of the fireflies story.)

But I enjoy the writers as well. I learn some things from them when I want to, I enjoy their posts, whether personal or about writing, and some of them have published books. And that’s where I want to go today. Even though I’ve only known the following people a short time, I consider them friends, or at least acquaintances whom I enjoy. I want to show you their books. I like the idea of supporting other WordPress authors, and I hope you’ll consider reading one or more of the following books.

I’m not giving reviews, because even though I own four of the noted books, I haven’t finished any of them yet. Read the shortened blurbs and choose a book of interest to you. You’ll be able to read the full descriptions when you click on the book cover.

Image The Valley Walker by T. W. Dittmer  – Special Investigator Teri Altro is a hard-driving member of the new Drug Interdiction Task Force. … When Altro first notices the man staring at her, he doesn’t seem like anything special… just some guy in the drugstore. But when three men walk in the door to assasinate her, he kills them all with fluid ease, and so quickly that she doesn’t even have time to pull her own gun. The confrontation is so eerily violent that it leaves Altro wondering just who… or what… the man is. (This is an amazing scene in the book.)
T.W. Dittmer’s Blog

Image Puppet Parade by Zeinab Alayan – The life of a puppet master is never ordinary. Oliver Deere knew this when he ran away from home to take up the trade of puppetry, but he had no idea just how much his life would change. After his puppets come to life and flee town, Oliver meets up with a masked girl who hides a mysterious past. … As they travel together in search for Oliver’s lost puppets, they find that the line between puppet and master is becoming much less clear – and much more deadly.
Zen Scribbles

ImageThe Ohgood Caristic by Lightning Pen aka John Buckley – A coup is nearly successful leaving ruler Dr. Famaron Venge to deciver what went wrong. He also has the added charge of taking care of his friend’s kids, as they are besieged on all sides by murderers. And his world of Parscan suddenly has all the trappings of an all out civil war, with rival factions fighting for control. (John has several books available.)
Lightningpen’s Blog

ImageZippin Pippin, Elvis Has A Son by Benjamin Grant Mitchell – After moving from Memphis to Melbourne as a seven-year-old boy, Angus Flynn quickly got used to being invisible. Growing up, he kept to life out of the spotlight, working backstage for his father, the once mega successful country singer, Finn ‘Killer’ Flynn. … But when the stage-shy roadie learns his ageing dad is in debt to a gang of bikers, he reluctantly agrees to perform in a one-off tribute show as ‘Killer’ Junior, in order to save the family home. However, before he leaves for his Hollywood debut Angus’s world is turned upside down when an ailing Finn makes a confession that, although difficult to believe, rings strangely true: Elvis Presley was Angus’s real father.
Indie Thinkin’ – B.G. Mitchell

ImageAcceptance by Keri M. Peardon – For more than two thousand years, a small community of humans has lived in harmony with vampires, giving their blood and obedience in exchange for protection. … When Kalyn Reid comes of age and pledges herself to the vampires, she has no reason to worry. … But before she has a chance to learn her new responsibilities – or get a date – her idyllic life goes up in flames. Without warning, the humans and vampires in her group are murdered by a strange new type of vampire and the few survivors are forced to flee.
Vampires, Ladies, and Potpourri

ImageKnight’s Big Easy (The E-Z Knight Reports) by Gordon A. Kessler – Voodoo, hoodoo and a girl named Poodoo make this year’s Mardi Gras the most fun but also the most dangerous party of all for E Z Knight! … Knight goes to New Orleans to find Parole Officer Tamara White Cloud’s AWOL USMC son, and finds out L/Cpl Billy White Cloud isn’t the only one who’s gone missing. … He uncovers the largest human trafficking organization since the US slave emancipation. Led by a Voodoo King named Papa Legba, the slave ring preys not only on young runaways and homeless children, but also kidnaps them from their own homes, and then sells them into prostitution and sweat-shop labor.
(Gordon has a lot of books. This is the one I’m reading, and it’s quite a ride!)
Gordon A. Kessler – blog

ImageFae Hunter (Soulstealer Trilogy #1) by Nicolette Reed – Valora Delos is a Hunter, charged with tracking the treacherous Soulstealers and bringing them to justice. She descends to Earth and finds herself trapped in suburban Seattle after the portal to her world closes. Uncovering who the Soulstealers are and who is behind the destruction of Dell’Aria brings Valora a truth she may not be able to handle.
Nicolette Reed

 

ImageBetween Fear and Love SELF-WORTH: The Tie that Binds by Lauren Cropper – The book chronicles the author’s journey as she learns to survive and overcome the world of fear she’s been living in. After the murder of a family member, fear became the deciding factor in her everyday lifestyle. The pursuit of a life-change ensued. After ending up broke, alone, and a single-mother, the author finally came face-to-face with the source of her problems, as well as the solution. And it came in the form of self-worth.
(Lauren was an early follower to my blog, and I have appreciated her Likes over the past two months.)
Between Fear and Love

And last, but not least, is a children’s author. We’ve haven’t chatted much, but I already know I like him, and his book is wonderful:
ImageSarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday by Mike Allegra – This story depicts how Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a holiday in the 1800s.
heylookawriterfellow

 

There you have it! At least nine books from fellow WordPress bloggers. If you’re looking for a tenth, just click on my home page. In preparation for my release of Big Easy Hunter next week, I’ve priced the first book in the series, Sunshine Hunter, at 99 cents (Amazon and Smashwords; other outlets will follow soon).

Happy reading!

Ack! D’oh! Yikes!

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I’ve always believed my books were entertaining, and I’m grateful to the few people who read and enjoyed them before I signed up for Robin Coyle’s blog class – Strong Words vs Weak Words. Robin has a wonderful way of taking mundane, lackluster, weak words and rewriting them into expressive, action-oriented sentences. Her examples are usually tongue-in-cheek and entertaining. Here’s an example of her elimination of the weak word “put.”

I put my fingers in my ears to drown out Robin’s yammering. 

Have you tried earplugs? Better yet, try noise-canceling headphones.

Even with my fingers shoved in my ears, I could hear Robin’s incessant screeching.

She threw a curveball at me recently. She wanted me to look at exclamation points. What?! I love exclamation points! To be fair, so does she, and she uses them liberally in her blog, but not in her book. Sigh. I’ve been on board for the entire ride, but I got off at the exclamation point station to see what I could find out about this.

When did people start hating the exclamation point? So many questions are asked in my books, and they all end in question marks. Why aren’t question marks hated when their rounded little shapes are peppered all over the page? Because we have to use them, you say? Well, I have to use exclamation points.

I started searching and reading articles and blog posts that were written entirely about author and editor hatred of the exclamation point. A children’s book editor said any picture book showing up with exclamation points all over the place is immediately dismissed. I’ll concede that point. A picture book has both words and pictures to show excitement. But let’s take a look at what else I found.

“It pains me when I see them.”
“They take away from the message.”
“An exclamation point is the cheap whore of punctuation.”
“I can barely stand reading sentences that have this mark at their end.”
“Exclamation points, you see, are evil.”

Wow! That’s some pretty strong emotion against a proper piece of punctuation.

ImageHere are the standard uses of an exclamation point:
– an exclamation (“Wow!”)
– an imperative (“Stop!”)
– to indicate astonishment (“They were the footprints of a bigfoot!”).
– The exclamation point is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment (“The bigfoot did what?!”)

I used the “?!” combination four times in book number two, and seven times in book number three. I didn’t even know it was an acceptable use. The double punctuation simply conveyed the emotion of the sentence, so I used it.

I haven’t read The Bonfire of the Vanities, but I do believe the book is still a hit with its 2,343 exclamation points. The book debuted in 1987. Maybe people didn’t hate the exclamation point so much back then.

I will not give up my exclamation points. Well, in my soon-to-be released book, I did throw out 29% of them – thanks to Robin – but I’m keeping the rest. Here is just one example of a keeper exclamation point:

“What’s this I hear about a secret passageway?” asked Larry before calling, “Trump!” and slamming his last card onto the table.

Without the exclamation point, Larry remains fairly calm and seated while slamming the card onto the table. With the exclamation point, he goes from talking calmly, to half-standing from his chair as he suddenly yells and is overly excited about winning the points.

ImageShould I have written all of that in the book? Should I have shown Larry getting all worked up in his seat over a card game? The exclamation point did the work for me, and the scene isn’t Larry’s anyway. I don’t want a lot of descriptive writing in my books. I want just enough to show the scene and allow my reader to take it from there. Exclamation points alleviate a lot of explaining and describing.

But I will also be the first to say I’m not giving advice to anyone. I’m just showing my stubbornness. Maybe when I’m a veteran writer, I’ll write a blog post laughing at my folly as a novice, and I’ll write about my naiveté and how much I now despise exclamation points. (But I doubt it.)

Big Easy Hunter is probably my favorite of the four books. It not only starts with dialogue (another perceived no-no), but the first sentence has an exclamation point:

“Stop it!” I whispered.

So there.

What? There are Parts of a Story?

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To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence. ~Mark Twain

If I had a tagline on my blog, it would be this quote from Mark Twain. I am both ignorant and confident when it comes to my writing. I guess I can look forward to becoming a success.

Now that I’ve been blogging for a couple of months, and hanging with some pretty awesome writers, I’ve been learning about some of the finer points of writing.

I admit, I haven’t really cared about some of the advice and topics of discussion I’ve encountered, but others have definitely sparked my interest. Of particular note lately is the fact that a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, duh! I started my story on page one, I wrote stuff, and it ended on page 200. I haven’t yet grasped why this is a topic that’s so widely written about, and as of this blog post, I still don’t fully understand.

Here, let me give away all of the good stuff in Sunshine Hunter, my first book:

Beginning – Susan finds out boyfriend is married.

Middle – Susan runs off to Florida with neighbor, so she can weep and gnash her teeth at the beach.

End – Susan forgives soon-to-be divorced boyfriend.

That’s a chick flick. Or more appropriately – chick lit.

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So, what about the dead guy at the racquetball club? What about the guy stalking Susan and her friend in Florida? Are the conga line dancers really necessary? What’s the big deal about snickerdoodle cookies?

Did I write this story the correct way? I don’t know. The book takes place over the course of a week. I simply started at the beginning of a day in Susan’s life and went from there. And I think I even did that all wrong because she wasn’t strong enough to be her own heroine. I’ve read that your main character should show growth and strength over the course of your story, and they should find their own solutions. Ha! Not Susan.

I’m finding as I read articles about beginning, middle, and end, that they’re not clear. As a new writer, they haven’t helped me understand the concept – other than the obvious. The articles are complicated, discussing plot points, arcs, inverted checkmarks.  Climax. There is a climax in all of my books. I do have that right.

Shortly after the beginning of my book, Susan reminisces in her own mind about the day she met her boyfriend, and how their relationship progressed until the day she found out he was married – which is the beginning of the book! Ack! But I didn’t want to start at the beginning of the relationship; I wanted to start with the drama. So, I did a little time traveling, which I suspect is another blow to beginning, middle, and end in my book.

Before I leave this topic, at least for the time being, let me tell you what I did in my newest book, Big Easy Hunter. I have two beginnings, one middle, and two ends – complete with two climaxes. How do you like them apples?

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Sentimental Journey

ImageMost people are born with a few prominent genes.

Some of my friends have the nurturing gene and are wonderful at taking care of their children and/or their fellow man. Others have the sewing gene and make beautiful clothing. I envy people who have the artistic gene and can paint beautiful portraits, landscapes, and everything in between, while even my stick figures are cringe-worthy.

I was probably off running in circles on a cloud when genes were passed out, because I missed out on most of them – especially the sentimental gene. I am not a sentimental person.

The weekly writing challenge at The Daily Post at WordPress is: “Tell us about your most meaningful possession.”

I don’t have one. Writing exercise over. I don’t win.

Many years ago, my husband endured several back injuries at work. We sold our wedding rings to make ends meet until worker’s compensation kicked in. I never batted an eye. My wedding ring was gone, and I didn’t feel anything about it other than I was glad we could pay the bills.

My father died in his early fifties. My mother gave his pocket watch to me. I felt nothing when I looked at the watch. I knew my dad didn’t want to wear a wristwatch, and that’s the only reason he carried the pocket watch. I sold it at a garage sale.

ImageIn my twenties, I opened a box from storage. It held books from my teen years – Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, and many more. Looking at them made me feel warm and fuzzy inside – for a couple of minutes. I promptly resealed the box and gave it to a woman I worked with, so her daughter could read them. I remember the woman being flabbergasted that I would give away something precious from my childhood. She said I would regret it. I didn’t.

It boils down to “things” and “possessions.” I don’t care about either. Our house could burn down tomorrow, and I would only hope the dog got out, and that I had already checked the lottery ticket in my desk.

What I do care about are memories. We’ve had our ups and downs financially over the years, but we rarely spend much money on anniversary, birthday, or holiday gifts. Instead, we make memories.

A family outing to dinner and then to the local theater to see A Christmas Carol makes a wonderful memory.

Hauling your ten-year-old kid along on tons of old-folks bus tours, so that your lonely mother is entertained, makes for fabulous, and sometimes fabulously funny, memories.

ImageRemembering that my father laughed like Muttley when he pulled a fast one on us kids is a memory I’ll have forever.

The memory lane is a long one. I have four siblings, and we grew up in a simpler time where we spent entire summer afternoons forty-feet high in the air as we dangled from trees. My older brother fell out once and lived to tell about it. We made our own haunted house in the basement and charged the neighbor kids a dime to come through. We later spent Monday nights on the living room floor with cousins and friends as we watched Laugh-In, while Dad sat in his recliner unable to control his Muttley laugh.

There are many more memories, but they are mine and would likely bore you. So, my answer to the writing challenge this week isn’t exactly what they were asking for, but my memories are my most meaningful possession.

A Fine Place for Writing

We live in a century home. It was built in 1903.

We knew the house needed work when we bought it, but other than necessary repairs, we haven’t yet been able to do the remodeling we originally planned. I don’t care. I love our old house with its two staircases and creepy basement.

I’ve claimed the dining room for my office and my used book business. This year it has also become a fine place for writing. Allow me to show you around my room: Image1 – Crazy patterned wallpaper which was here when we bought the house. It has a “magic eye” effect. I can do the eye thingy and get the design to “pop out,” but there’s nothing in there.

2 – A really great wood desk weighing a million pounds. We paid $35 for it at a local thrift shop.

3 – Candy dish with m&m’s for editing.

4 – Sticky note left by 25-year-son. It reads, “I love you!” He left it on my desk one day when I wasn’t home, and I couldn’t make myself throw it away, so it’s taped to my computer.

5 – Pink mp3 player with pink earbuds. I truly am a pink girl at heart.

Yes, my vhs/dvd player is up on blocks. Hubby rigged it for me so the stupid cable box could have air flowing around it.

On the wall behind my desk are bookshelves holding what’s left of my used book business. It wasn’t too long ago, I had over 5,000 books in inventory, but I’ve downsized. I’d rather write than sell used children’s books, and I’m tired of carrying heavy boxes to the post office. The books in cloth bags on the floor are waiting to be processed. I might get around to them one day. ImageTo the right of my desk is the shipping department. It’s obvious my table is in front of the old fireplace, but we haven’t used it for many years. I cropped the picture because the ugly brown box of packing peanuts under the table made the whole thing look worse than it already does.

ImageWhat you don’t see is the sofa along the bay window directly behind my chair. It was never for guests; it was always for dogs. There were days when all four of them would sleep on the sofa while I worked. Today, it seems silly to have a full-sized piece of furniture for just a beagle, but he does seem to enjoy it.

I like having this spacious room to work in every day. I can open the window beside my desk for lovely breezes and plenty of sunshine comes into the room. I can see into the kitchen while writing, and it’s easy to yammer at hubby when he’s out there foraging for a snack or taking a quick puff on a cigar.

Thank you for taking this little tour of my fine place for writing. It’s time to get back to that nifty notebook on my desk which is harping at me, because I’ve used the word “shocked” a dozen times in my current work in progress, and no one can be shocked that much in one book.

Let me know what your fine place for writing is like. Or better yet, do a blog post and show me.

Buying Influence

ImageReviews are on my mind today.

I’m irritated with my Readers Favorite review. They corrected the spelling and most of the grammar/sentence structure on their site, but the original review stands at Barnes & Noble – where the reviewer, an ex-teacher no less, appears to have had trouble with the English language, and where racquetball is spelled racket ball. RF would be happy to post the edited review, but only an author can request the removal of their first one. Good luck with that. It’s irritating, but not worth losing time or sleep over. I’ve made the request to B&N twice, and if they ever remove it, I’ll the RF people know.

It’s hard for a new author to get reviews. I wrote to an online friend of many years and asked if she would have time to read my book. I told her I would send a gift card through Amazon, and all I wanted was an honest review. She was excited for me and said yes. Three months later she is sheepish, but she simply hasn’t had time to read the book with summer, kids, back-to-school, etc.  I told her I completely understood, and I wouldn’t be offended if she never read it.

Now I’m reading across many forums that it was unethical for me to ask for the review in the first place. Giving a book away for free in return for a review, or paying someone to read your book then leave a review, is a shunning offense as an author.

The payment to Readers Favorite was to have someone read the book and post the review within two weeks – nothing more. There was no guarantee of a positive review. They will review any book for free if you are willing to wait three months or more. But with five stars across the board in all categories, and then the racket ball misspelling; well, I can’t help but to wonder if the payment had a bearing on the review.

Charlie, thatgirlwhoreadsbooks, posted this article in a reply to one of my posts. It’s from the New York Times and is an article about book reviewers for hire. By the way, I enjoy Charlie’s blog immensely as she attempts to read every book in her house. You should check it out.

The entire article was interesting, but I found the mention of John Locke to be especially noteworthy. Everyone who self publishes knows who John Locke is. He is the first self-published author to sell more than a million eBooks through Amazon. I would love to know his true sales numbers, as I believe even his free downloads were considered a “sale.” Oh, I’m not taking anything away from the amount of money he’s made; I’ve contributed! A quick check of my Nook shows 13 John Locke books which I purchased at 99 cents each.

What interested me so much about the article was that Mr. Locke “commissioned Mr. Rutherford to order reviews for him, becoming one of the fledgling service’s best customers.” Mr. Locke went on to say “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”

It reminded me of the disc jockey scandal of the 60’s. Disc jockeys took payment in return for playing certain music tracks more frequently on the radio. Just as hearing a song over and over again can run it up the charts, seeing a book with hundreds of positive reviews can bring more and more buyers.

I’ve set aside a budget for advertising. When I originally set my budget, I allowed for free books in exchange for honest reviews. So far, I’ve only done that with my friend who doesn’t have the time, but I’m wondering if I should even consider this given the current review climate – especially at Amazon. I received a glowing review for one of my books, and it has disappeared. It was a verified purchase, I didn’t know the person, and I have no idea why the review is gone. Do I really want to pay for reviews via free books when they could disappear at any time anyway? I think not.

Having at least one positive review on each book right now is just fine (none were paid for!). I can live with that.

But I am curious … have you had any experience with offering a book in exchange for a review? Or have you paid for a review? Did you change your mind about the practice after you did? What does Scrooge McDuck have to do with any of this?

Ice Cream and Horse Manure – Yum!

Since I seem to be determined to post a fair amount of silliness on my blog, I thought this would be a good topic for a Saturday when nobody is supposed to be reading blogs anyway.

My husband has a guyfriend who would be his girlfriend if he wasn’t a guy. I’ve never seen two men who have so much in common. They text each other during the day and make each other laugh with their own brand of humor. The funny thing is, his wife and I are quite alike as well.

On Friday evenings, after dinner, we hop on the motorcycle, as do they, and we meet up out in a little town in the heart of Amish country.

ImageI don’t even know the name of the place we go to every week. It looks like a house that was converted to a business. It’s a little general store where they also serve pizza, chicken, sandwiches, and they have soft-serve ice cream.

We walk up to the outside window to place our order, and it takes for-ev-er for someone to come to the window. Then it takes for-ev-er to get your order. Hubby and the other couple always order tall cones, but I’m a hot fudge sundae kind of girl. I like eating with a spoon rather than chasing ice cream around in a circle before it melts all over my hand in the 80 degree heat.

There’s a round wooden picnic table next to the building. It kills my back to sit on it for a couple of hours, but the company and the conversation are so good, it’s worth it.

ImageRight behind my spot at the picnic table is a hitching post. There are always horses. Lots of horses and horse crap. Today we were in luck. There was only one horse and less manure than usual.

Depending upon how the wind is blowing, the delicious smell of pizza wafts over our ice cream, or the stench of the horse manure. Tonight we had an added treat. A tanker truck, fresh from picking up a load of some god-forsaken chicken mash from the local chicken processing plant, parked across the street from us. The driver ran into the store for some tasty treat before heading on down the road. The smell was enough to make you gag, and I longed for the horse manure smell.

Besides our normal visiting chatter, there is usually a story or two for the evening’s entertainment, and they usually come from my husband. Tonight was no exception. He shared his one and only experience when he went frog gigging . . .

One of his friends, along with his sixteen-year-old son, took hubby out one dark night in a canoe. Hubby was wearing a new pair of shoes and a new pair of jeans. It took a while, but they finally heard a cacophony of croaking frogs – in a swampy area where the canoe couldn’t go. If we were going to feast on frog legs, the men were going to have to go on foot. It was nearly midnight, and no one was around, so hubby whipped off the new tennis shoes and jeans and hopped into the water with the other two guys and the frogs. Burlap sacks were rapidly being filled until a flashlight was directed at them through the weeds. Uh-oh. Hubby was standing there in his underwear – not boxers to give the effect of shorts – but good old tighty whiteys. It was the game warden. The man never batted an eye. All he wanted to know was how many frogs were in the sacks. I bet he had a story to tell the next day at work about the bonehead in the swamp in his underwear. But we had a frog leg feast.

You don’t get this kind of lifestyle in the big city. Good friends, ice cream, and horse manure. Yum!

Who Should Review Your Book? Your Mother, Of Course!

I was looking for my mother’s high school graduation picture. It’s a lovely picture, and I wanted to put it with this post. I’ve looked in every nook and cranny of our house, but I can’t find it.

I only have a few sentimental bones in my body. I’m not one to keep things. My husband, on the other hand, would be a hoarder if it was socially acceptable.

ImageI only have one small box of pictures, and I was surprised Mom’s picture wasn’t in it. I did find this picture though. There is that sweet husband of mine. The pink bow tie suits him, and I think he should wear pink more often. I love this picture. Our son is now twenty-five, so slap a good twenty years or so on my husband and I, and you’ll have a current picture of us.

Obviously, I’m easily sidetracked.

About my mother …  She hasn’t been feeling well lately. Allergies, restless legs, aches and pains have all been dragging her down. She needed something to brighten her day.

Even though my latest book still needs work, I printed a hard copy and took it to her on Tuesday. I asked her to read it for enjoyment – no need to edit this time. I suggested when she was finished, she could help me find places in the book where I could add or expand scenes to bring up the word count.

My mother has been an avid reader all her life. She’s a fast reader, and she can blow through a lot of books in a short period of time. She knows what she likes, and she’s not averse to giving up on a book after a few pages, or even in the middle, if the story or the characters bore her.

I mentioned in a much earlier post that I was shocked – truly shocked – when my mother liked my first book. She was originally irritated I was even attempting to write a book, and she was sure it would be something tawdry that would embarrass her. What? Moi?

She started reading it yesterday and called twice in the afternoon. The first time, she was already laughing about a new character to the books, and she said she liked that the mystery was introduced early in the story. I told her to let me know if she thought I should ditch the silly chapter. Her second call was to let me know she loved chapter five, and I should leave it with no changes. Not only did she think it was funny, but it gave her a little scare, too. Very good, Mom. It was just what I was going for. This was the very first feedback for the book, and I was tickled pink!

She called again this morning to let me know she finished the book last evening. And she loved it! She said she tried to leave it alone to give her eyes a rest during the day and even watch a little television, but she said she just couldn’t wait to see what happened next. She loved the character interaction, the dogs, the humor, and the pace of the book. She, too, didn’t see where another scene could be added, but we both agreed on a few places to try.

It’s hard relying on feedback from family, friends, and just a few reviews, but sometimes that’s all you have. I was thrilled with a recent 5-star review for Sunshine Hunter, because it finally gave me the type of feedback I was hoping for. This was the first person to mention my characters: “All the characters felt fully fleshed out and real, drawing me into their world and eagerly flipping the page to see what happened next.” She also commented on the pace of the book: “It moved along at a pace that felt natural, letting the plot unfold in an effortless way and at the end of the book I was wishing that it wasn’t over it was so good.”

If my mother were making suggestions to write something differently, or change this, or change that, I would know I was in trouble. But she likes my books as they are, and since she’s a smart lady and skipped the third grade, I’m going to go with her opinion.

If all I accomplish this year is to have written books to entertain my mother, it will have been worth it.

A Ghost at Grandma’s House

ImageIt feels good to be working on my newest book again, but it needs an additional 2,400 words. I had to re-read it to refresh myself on the details and search for where a scene or two could be added.

Once again, I found myself smiling. I obviously write to entertain myself, but I hope my books will entertain others as well. Sometimes, I think to myself, “Did I really write this? Where did this come from?”

But I know where a lot of it comes from. It’s the old “write what you know” mantra, and it sure is helpful to have your own life experiences to scatter throughout your writing.

My first book has so many of my own experiences, I should have used this for a disclaimer: “Oh, who am I kidding? A ton of it really happened, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” At one point in the story, Susan is deep-sea fishing on a boat which has a broken radio and one of the engines is out. This happened to me in real life. The conversation in the book is almost identical to the one I had when chatting with the first mate. I don’t want to give away what happens next, but some of it involves a big fish, and the music from Jaws rolls around in Susan’s head – as it did for me in real life.

Part of this fourth book takes place in New Orleans, and once again I wondered how much of my own life I could put into the book. I’ve been to New Orleans, but my experience there was pretty tame.

I started chapter five on a day when I was in a funk. It translated to my writing when Susan was suddenly childish and whining from the back seat of the car, “Are we almost there?” I knew I was writing something which wasn’t in her character, but I kept writing anyway. She was on her way with two of her friends to visit one of the friend’s elderly relatives. They were headed to a plantation home, and had a shock when they pulled up in front of a run-down, weathered house:

———

Our mouths hung open in astonishment.  Nate pulled up in front of the house and turned off the engine.  It was so quiet in the car, you could have heard a snail crawl.

I threw myself back against the seat as uncontrollable laughter once again gushed forth.

“Shhh! Shhh!” Darby was shushing me with his finger to his lips. “Susan! They’re going to hear you!”

His words brought another peal of laughter, and I flopped over onto the seat, putting my hand over my mouth in an effort to quell the laughter.

———

That’s not edited, and I’m uncertain as to the changes to be made, but you get the drift. The fun thing about all of this was I had no intention of sending these three off to visit relatives instead of going directly to their hotel. And I wrote the house to be exactly as my grandparent’s house was in real life.

I have such wonderful childhood memories of being there. You had to drive at least a mile-long lane to reach the house. There were woods, fields, and a pond. The upstairs of the house scared the snot out of me, and Grandma always said of the door which was always closed, “Don’t ever open that door.” The bathroom was huge, but only had a few fixtures – (from the book) “The rest of the room was wide open, and you could easily hold a party here with twenty of your closest friends.”

I tossed in a ghost, who is in my postscript as being real, and the entire chapter was a mess of silly nonsense. I fully intended to throw the chapter out of the book – until I read it again a few days later, and it tickled my funny bone so much, I had to keep every bit of it.

I suppose I wanted to write about this today because the “refresher reading” reminded me again of several things:

~ Writing about what you know really does work.

~ Sometimes writing something you know isn’t right for your book just might surprise you.

~ Putting things from your own life into your writing can bring unexpected joy.

I can’t put into words the emotions I feel when I read about our dog, Joe (especially when he’s so great in the book!), and having Susan and her friends visit my grandparent’s home was really special.

Even though I’ve had some challenging and miserable ups and downs with formatting and editing, this entire writing experience has been amazing and, dare I say, joyful.

If you are so inclined, I’d love to know how much of your life experiences you put into your writing and/or any comments relating to unexpected joy from your writing.

Six Sentence Sunday

ImagePick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

Rather than to continue with Susan in Vegas, I thought I would go back to the beginning where Susan Hunter made her first appearance in a Word document. Here is the opening paragraph from the first book in the series, Sunshine Hunter (with a slight modification to accommodate the entire paragraph):

My perfectly restored ‘67 Chevy Chevelle careened around the corner at Walsh and Park, the tires squealing in an effort to get my attention. I was angry, and my mind was reeling. I was thinking of all the ways I wanted to kill him. People on the sidewalk were staring as I flew by, and I knew I had to get a grip on more than the steering wheel. Carbide City was known for speed traps, and I didn’t need another ticket. Why are restored muscle cars magnets for cops and tickets anyway?

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site: http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

I Adore My Husband

Now that the huge editing project is complete, it’s time to get back to writing – but I’m taking a break this weekend. Today, I’m turning my sights on the heartthrob who stands at the stubhub (our stove with an ashtray on it) smoking a lovely cigar.

A day doesn’t go by without my husband giving me a reason to laugh. Many times, it comes via email. He works in an office and deals with massive amounts of money, much of it from government contracts. I feel I should include a disclaimer indicating that he is an intelligent man, and he is usually the adult in this relationship; however …

Every morning, he sends an email to me, and then usually one or two throughout the day. I was recently going to empty the deleted items in my email program, but thought I would go back and pull out some comments from my husband. Each of these gems comes from a separate email since June of this year. Parenthesis notes are mine.

There is always a sweet greeting:

Good morning, honey.

Good morning, my overheated princess.

Followed by some news regarding the overnight:

I will assume you slept well last night. I didn’t hear you stumble up to bed.

Did you sleep well with all the bugs, flies, birds, squirrels, and chipmunks coming in through the window? (I forgot to pull the screen down.)

His response the morning I woke up and couldn’t walk because my back was locked up:

I hate to tell you this, but I put a pea under the mattress before you came to bed last night. That’s probably why your back hurts. I wanted to see if you were still my princess. Now I know.

Sometimes there is news about the dog’s morning constitutional:

If he’s been eating less because there are no biscuits, then I’d say everything is normal. If you’ve been feeding him people food in place of biscuits, then maybe he’s got a couple of loaves hidden somewhere in the house.

He’s trying to eat healthier:

Honey, I had one burger and one small fry, and I felt like a friggin’ million bucks. Healthy sucks, shit food rocks.

It would be much easier to “eat to live” if all food tasted like cardboard.

Comment after he was alerted to the fact it was another day for him to find his own dinner:

Just when I am ready to give up on our relationship, you say something that draws me closer to you. Man I love you.

There may be commentary regarding the motorcycle:

(Weatherman called for rain – no rain.)
I knew I could have ridden to work today. Freekin’ dumbasses.

Our neighbor, Bill, is retired now:

You never answered me. How come? Is Bill there?

Give my vacation some thought. Write about it on your blog. Watch Bill mow the grass with his shirt off.

After the boss passed out sheriff badges with the company logo on them. Kitsch for trade shows:

I’m leaving on time tonight. I will be arriving in my cowboy boots, undies, and mah new badge!

A comment about one of my blog posts:

I just noticed only one blogger likes the tattoo story. See? People do NOT like tattoos. Only tattooed people like them! They are taboo and evil markings; which is why I need another one. Or two.

He worries about getting older and the strange tags and things which show up on his body:

I’m tired of all these ancillary do-hickeys growing all over me. I’m getting out the soldering gun when I get home.

He helps with the cleaning:

Don’t do any cleaning that will hurt your arms or your back. Leave that to me.

He always closes with something sweet:

I love you. Have a good day.

Have a good day, sweetie pie. Write a book. Read a book. Download a book. On your Nook. Put on a two-piece and go out and get some sun on Bill’s porch.

Hugs ‘n smooches!

Is Your Life a Musical?

Music has always surrounded my life.

I have four siblings, and we were all teenagers at the same time. Thanks to my mother, our house was filled with music – blues, jazz, top 40, country, and yes, even rock.

I wanted to expose our son to music, too. He was pretty young when we started taking him to our local Imagedinner theater to see musicals. Every Friday night for an entire winter, we watched a movie musical – Singing in the Rain, Oklahoma, Man of La Mancha, etc.

We did unit studies for music. We jumped on beds to classical music, sampled opera which we first heard from Bugs Bunny, and the kid eventually taught himself to play the guitar.

It was nothing for one of us to ask another a question and get a response in song. Sometimes the stuff we would come up with would send us off into gales of laughter, and we thought we would die laughing (see Roly at Comedy in Crisis). Of course, the rest of my family thought we had gone bonkers, because we turned our life into a musical.

It’s been quite a few years since then, but there is still a lot of music in our home. My husband and I play Dr. Mario on an old Nintendo 64. We turn the sound off, put our own music on, and play into the wee hours of the night while we chat and listen to music. I’ve noticed he likes to sing along with the girl backup singers. Just the girl backup singers. It’s hilarious. And he’s ruined about a bajillion songs for me because he changes lyrics, and then I have his lyrics stuck in my head.

So, that’s it. My musical life. I have nothing profound to say. I simply wanted to veer away from a writing post today. But I did put song lyrics in my first two books, and then panicked when I found out it could cost me a fortune, and I had to REPUBLISH!

Six Sentence Sunday

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It’s easy! Pick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

My six are, once again, from Sin City Hunter, the third book in the Susan Hunter Mystery series.

Last week, we left Mick and Darby in their underwear on either side of the hotel room bed. Susan wasn’t expecting Mick, her fiancé, to arrive for two more days. … Her parents are staying on the same floor of the hotel, and as they are returning to their room, they hear the shouting from Susan’s. My six are from a few moments later:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mom was ogling back and forth between Mick and Darby. Her eyes were wide as she was clucking and saying, “Oh my. Oh my.”

I looked to my dad with misery oozing from my eyes and said, “Mom, Dad, this is Mick. Mick, these are my parents, Lilah and Earl.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Mick muttered in exasperation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:  http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

Amo, Amas, Amat

Anyone who has ever taken Latin remembers this phrase. It means: I love, you love, he she or it loves.Image

When most of my peers were taking Spanish in high school, I wanted the romance language. I liked the idea of learning to speak romantically. Wasn’t I surprised to find I had signed myself up for a dead language with an ancient teacher and books that looked like a snooze fest!

I wasn’t a good student in school. If I came home with a B, I was delighted. The C’s kept my head above water. An A in Home Economics didn’t count. It wasn’t that I wasn’t intelligent; I was simply too interested in my friends and having fun.

It took a while, but something finally clicked for me. Latin was like a puzzle. I spotted bits and pieces of English words hiding in the Latin words. I was good at memorizing, so the vocabulary words and their meanings were easy for me. Declensions, on the other hand, made me want to pull my hair out! If it weren’t for a cute boy who helped me during tests, I wouldn’t have made B’s across the board.

What I wasn’t prepared for was when my English grades jumped from C’s to A’s. The difficulty of reading and declining Latin words made English seem like a piece of cake. I compare it to racquetball. I sought matches with the faster, stronger guys in the club, so when I went back to playing with the girls, it was easier. I signed up for a second year of Latin.

My family thought I had lost my mind when I started our son on Latin in the third grade. It was easy for him to memorize, and to this day, I think a year of Latin at a young age helped tremendously with his vocabulary.

Latin helped me to appreciate words. That’s kind of funny to me now, since I write so simply in my books. Having two years of Latin, enjoying English in high school, and then later reviewing and teaching both to our son … well, I think it was probably one of the things that gave me so much gumption to think I could write and self-publish a book.

Did learning another language help you with your writing? I still want to learn French. If I arrived in Paris today, I would only be able to ask for le fromage.

Would You Wife Swap?

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Several years ago, we were contacted by ABC Television with an invitation for our family to appear on Wife Swap. They thought we would be a good fit.

I was horrified.

I didn’t for one nanosecond think this was a good idea. How dysfunctional must my family have appeared online to be contacted? I had seen the show a few times, and there was always a little bit of the crazy train in each episode.

But I knew what caused them to seek us out. They wanted a family who homeschooled. In some way, they were going to show us as a crazy homeschooling family.

Homeschooling was a lot of things, but crazy it wasn’t. It was one of the best things I ever did in my life. No one ever asked what we were doing or what our son was learning. All they ever wanted to know was, “What about socialization?”

Their children should have been so lucky! It was wonderful. Not only did we have homeschool groups to interact with, but our son practically lived on his bike and found every kid around in a three mile radius. He not only knew every child who would have been in his public school classroom, but he knew all of the children in the few grades above and below his as well.

I could write a blog about homeschooling. It wasn’t something we planned to do; it came out of necessity. When our son was screened by the public school system for kindergarten, it was strongly suggested we take him to our doctor as the screeners felt he would need medication for school. I quit my corporate job to stay home and school him myself. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when we started, but I figured it out.

I thought about the Wife Swap invitation again today as I scrolled through the books on my Nook. I don’t often think about homeschooling now that our son has graduated, but the books brought up memories. When I first looked for books to download, I didn’t go for the free books from today’s authors; I went right for the public domain books. There are still so many I want to read.

We read aloud for years – way beyond when our son could read for himself. It was simply enjoyable for us to share a book together. We bypassed dry history texts for wonderfully told history from wonderful writers. Even though most of the authors are considered juvenile authors, the enjoyment an adult derives cannot be argued.

Some of my favorite vintage authors:

– Charles Carleton Coffin … Through the day Marion remains in the swamp. His men rest beneath the leafy shade of the oaks. Long trails of moss hang pendent from the trees, waving in the summer breeze. So deep the shade, that at midday there is only twilight where the brave men lie concealed. At night, no one could find them there. ~ The Boys of ‘76

– Jacob Abbott … The news of this battle spread everywhere, and produced the strongest sensation. Hannibal sent dispatches to Carthage announcing what he considered his final victory over the great foe, and the news was received with the greatest rejoicing. At Rome, on the other hand, the news produced a dreadful shock of disappointment and terror. It seemed as if the last hope of resisting the progress of their terrible enemy was gone, and that they had nothing. ~Hannibal

– James Otis … The night was cold indeed and we suffered not a little before morning; but, as Ben said, it was better to be a trifle chilly than to feel ourselves beholden to anyone, even for that which we covered ourselves. ~Benjamin of Ohio

– Joseph Altsheler … Henry Ware walked to one of the windows and looked out for a long while. He relished little the idea of being a prisoner for the second time, even if the second imprisonment were a sort of courtesy affair. He saw from the windows the roofs of houses amid green foliage and he knew that only a few hundred yards beyond lay the great forest, which, now in the freshest and tenderest tints of spring, rolled away unbroken, save for the few scratches the French or Spanish had made, for thousands of miles, and for all he knew to the Arctic Circle itself. ~ The Free Rangers

– Elbridge Streeter Brooks … The moon struggled out of the flying clouds as Ned, for the fortieth time, slipped aside for the litter bearers to pass. And as he did so, he looked upon the face of the still form on the litter and his young heart fairly burst over the sacrifice he saw. For the moonbeams fell upon the face of the dead Colonel of the Ninth, the brave Liscum, who obeyed orders even though he knew them to be a blunder, the gallant veteran of four wars, dead in his fifth, unconscious of his country’s reward for gallant service, slated for the promotion that was never to come to him on earth. ~ Under the Allied Flags

There are many, many more vintage authors whose works we enjoyed. Their styles of writing varied. For some authors, the descriptive writing was lovely and flowing; for others, it was chopped and halting. Some authors wrote with simple words and painted simple pictures; while others used more complex wording, and we gleaned some of our understanding from context. It was, after all, no fun to read with a dictionary at your elbow.

I originally told myself I would read a book from a current author, and then read a book from a vintage author. I forgot my plan. I’ll have time again to read this winter. I think I’ll start with A Loyal Lass, A Story of the Niagara Campaign of 1814 by Amy E. Blanchard. It’s a romance.

Baby Steps

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My internet and social media headache continues, but I’m making progress.

My husband is my hero when it comes to computers. No matter what problem I seem to be having, he can always solve it – 100% of the time. When he says, “There you go,” I always smile and say, “You’re my hero!”

But I’ve tried to handle everything with my books by myself. I fought for a week with a new web design program and thought I would never figure it out, but I did. If I could have reached around to pat myself on the back when I managed to figure out the settings to actually send the web page up to my ISP, I would have. That was always hubby’s department in the past, and it was completely foreign to me.

I finally figured out I had to make a personal page on Facebook before they would allow me to have the business page for my books. I’m getting the hang of actually writing something on the page now. I have a whopping seven likes.

I listed my books at Goodreads. They are swallowed up over there, but I don’t have time to do anything about that yet. At least they are there.

I finally made one little tweet on Twitter. Twitter is probably last on my list of social media to conquer.

Yesterday, it only took a little over three hours to figure out how to put a Like button on my web page. No kidding. I made hubby look over my shoulder several times because I was struggling, but every time he offered to help, I said, “No, I’ll figure it out.” How hard can it be to drop some code into a program that specifically says, “Add Code Here.” He ran off to Lowe’s to do some shopping, and I was finally able to send a text to him which read, “By Jove! I think I’ve got it!” And I did. Stupid little button.

I even secured my own PayPal account this weekend. I can stop using my husband’s. I feel like such a grownup now.

So, I have a feeling of accomplishment today. Little by little, I’m learning and getting things done. I’ll eventually figure out how to use social media to help me with my books. In the meantime, I’ll just keep trying to do things myself, and see where it takes me.

My Website – Breezy Books

My Facebook Page

My one little tweet on Twitter

Goodreads

Six Sentence Sunday

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Pick any six sentences from your writing, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

The six I’ve chosen are, once again, from Sin City Hunter, the third book in the Susan Hunter Mystery series.

Two days after Susan and pro hockey player, Dell Grady, were featured on a sports newscast, they made headlines in the sports section of the newspaper. Susan plans to tell her fiancé about the incidents when he arrives in Vegas at the end of the week. He shows up two days early – in the middle of the night. My six are from a few moments later:

==============

He was standing on one side of the bed in his boxer shorts, while Darby had jumped out on the side closest to me in a much tighter boxer brief. For a split second, I visualized these two gorgeous men modeling men’s underwear on a runway in Milan, but I quickly realized Mick had slipped into bed with Darby, and it hadn’t gone well.

“Mick!” I shouted. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m registered to this room,” he bellowed . “What’s Darby doing here?”

==============

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:  http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

Payday!

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My first royalties from my books were deposited into my account today. A whopping $21.73 from Amazon. I’m excited!

I published Sunshine Hunter on May 10. Big Apple Hunter was published on May 26. My royalties today are from May only.

Ten copies of Sunshine Hunter sold in 21 days, and three of Big Apple Hunter in six days. Five of the sales weren’t in the U.S., so the royalties were less. None of my early sales were from family or friends, and I didn’t have my blog then, so I’m tickled pink I had any sales at all.

It’s a start! 🙂

Six Sentence Sunday

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My six are, once again, from Sin City Hunter, the third book in the Susan Hunter Mystery series.

Susan plays a game of racquetball with a man she believes is behind a murder. Showing no mercy, she wins the game 15-0. My six are from the final few minutes of the game:

I set for the serve and blasted the ball hard down the left side. Carl lunged for the ball, missed, and fell onto the court. I heard a cheer go up from the other side of the glass, but it was quickly quelled by someone, probably Mr. Diamond.

Carl scrambled to his feet, and with his back to the glass so no one would see what he was saying, he hissed, “You’re going to be sorry you did this in front of all of these people.”

Rather than to cower and be frightened, he had snapped my last nerve, and I had more anger than fear. I stood close to him so no one would see what I was saying, and I hissed back at him, “I know what you did.”

~~~~~

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:  http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

To Behave or Not To Behave, That is the Question

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Writers create a brand, yes? Do you work on your brand?

For some authors, their brand has become them, plain and simple. You see their name or their face, and there is nothing else you need to know. The emotional attachment from the reader to the writer is wrapped up in personal recognition. When I see a favorite author’s name or headshot on a book, I don’t need to read the blurb before I buy. I know the brand, and I know what I’ll get.

I suppose I’ve started working on a brand. My brand is pink. My brand is breezy. Wow. That’s impressive. /sarcasm

My brand is blonde. She runs amuck, as opposed to amok, but I think I should stop using that word/phrase. The connotation is messy. Things go haywire for Susan in every book, but I need a better catchphrase or line. The books don’t specifically revolve around the racquetball club or the weight loss center, so there isn’t anything to draw from either location.

I know from reading all of Janet Evanovich’s books that Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter with attitude. Janet, of course, has name and face recognition with her brand, but any fan also knows the name Stephanie Plum is synonymous with bounty hunter (and Ranger and Morelli!).

Who is Susan Hunter? In every book, she does something innocuous, ultimately putting her life in danger. Susan Hunter, Unintentional Blonde. That doesn’t work. Susan Hunter, Blonde Impulsive. Yikes! Susan Hunter, Trying to Get Killed One Book at a Time. … Susan doesn’t swear outside of one or two uses of the word crap in the books. Her exclamation phrase is always, “Oh my gosh!” … Susan Hunter, Oh My Gosh! … I admit, I have nothing.

Then we come to me personally. I’ve allowed enough of my personality to show that I think followers of my blog already know we’re a silly family. Humor brightens our days.

Yesterday was a lightning and thunder day. My husband rode his motorcycle to work. I won’t share my email messages to him throughout the day, but the final one was in all caps and expressed my enjoyment at his certain soaking to come. He was sure he would make the half hour ride home without running into rain. When he came through the door, I was delighted to see his shirt was soaked. “Five minutes!” he whined while laughing. “If I would have left five minutes sooner, I would have made it.” It was a fun moment for us, and my competitive nature chalked up a win for me.

That story is fine. I don’t mind some personal branding showing the silly side of my life. But how far would be too far before it hurt?

I wrote a blog post earlier in the week, and I liked it; it made me laugh. It was about playing a computer game, how maddening it was, and my continual reaction to the game. The game is, after all, what I choose to do when I don’t want to write. The post would have fit in with my blog theme.

I ran the idea for the post by my husband and asked, “What if some day my books take off. (Don’t laugh! Stranger things have happened.) What if someday Susan Hunter is known to an audience? Do I really want someone coming back through my blog and reading this type of post?”

We both agreed it needed to hit the trash can. Just as I don’t share the negative, depressing things that might creep into our lives at times, I don’t want to share the more crass side that raises its head every now and then – no matter how funny it may be. There are certain aspects of our lives that aren’t necessary to my developing brand, and I realize I don’t want them creeping in.

Are you cautious while developing your brand? Do you behave – or not?

Blogging Freaks Me Out (Part Two)

I used to attend book sales at public libraries. It was my main inventory source for selling used children’s books. When I first started going, even though I was friendly and outgoing, the other book dealers wouldn’t talk to me and only tolerated my existence. I was a mom with a child in tow, and I didn’t fit in with their highbrow, snotty circle of knowledge of expensive books and ephemera. It took almost TWO YEARS of being at the same sales with all of them before a bookseller finally asked what I was doing. He was surprised at the success I was enjoying.

To make a long story short, most of the other dealers did eventually become friendly, and over the course of ten years, we had some good times waiting in line and chatting. I never forgot how the snubbing felt though, and I always made sure I talked with anyone who was near me in the book line – no matter why they were there. I met a lot of interesting people by not discriminating.

At first, I was wary here at WordPress. My feelings of the book snubbing surfaced again – especially since I had just written three books in three months and published them myself. I hadn’t paid my dues in the writer’s world.

I was afraid to comment on anyone’s blog for fear they wouldn’t answer because I didn’t fit in with their circle of friends. I was afraid to follow – especially another author – for fear they would chastise me for what I had done.

None of that has happened. I’ve met some wonderful people, I’m learning a lot, and most of the time, blogging is fun.

But I was freaked out again a couple of days ago. I was looking around Freshly Pressed and read the blog post about making your likes mean something. Yikes! What if other bloggers think my likes aren’t heartfelt? What if other bloggers think I’m only liking their posts to induce them to come to my blog? What if I’m intruding on someone’s blog who intended it for a select circle of family and friends?

I’ve had fun rolling around WordPress and finding blogs to read, follow, and like. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I always read a post before I push like. Why wouldn’t you?

I was following a lot of blogs and dropping a lot of likes out there, but I wasn’t trolling for likes or followers in return. I don’t have enough to say to bring people here. In my panic of feeling I wasn’t blogging correctly, I unfollowed a load of people, and hoped I would no longer be intruding.

The fact that other bloggers show up to read my blog still kind of freaks me out. Now I’m paranoid, too.

Seven Things about Me, a.k.a. I Received the Sunshine Award

Since I started blogging almost two months ago, I’ve been nominated for two awards, and I’d like to humbly accept one of them today.

I was nominated by Tessa Sheppard for the Sunshine Award. Thank you so much, Tessa!

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The rules for receiving this award are:

1.  List 7 things about yourself
2.  Nominate bloggers worthy of this award.
3.  Thank the person who nominated you
4.  Put the image in your entry.

7 Things About Me:

1. I love dogs. All dogs.

2. I enjoy my husband. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and he makes me laugh every day. (However, dogs #1, husband #2.)

3. I buy a lottery ticket every day. I read somewhere that writers should also play the lottery, because their chances of making money with both are the same. I doubled my chances when I became a writer.

4. I used to be fearless. (Embarrassing examples withheld.)

5. I wish I could turn back the clock. Even after two blown disks in my back and nerve damage to my shoulder, I wish I could go back and play racquetball one more time. I loved it like no other sport. I could play a mean game of h-o-r-s-e with a basketball. I won bowling trophies. I could even make the throw from third to first base for the out. But there was nothing like smokin’ the competition on the racquetball court. Maybe I should have titled number 5: I’m very competitive.

6. I keep slipping things that I did, or things that happened to me, in my Susan Hunter books. My family keeps trying to figure out the fact from the fiction. My mother is sometimes mortified.

7. In case you haven’t read much of my blog, I sat down one evening in February of this year and decided to write a book. Three books are finished and self-published. A fourth is in the editing stage, and I have notes compiled for a fifth. … I’ve already pleaded ignorance. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do it like this.

Nominate Bloggers for the Sunshine Award

My awards are in keeping with the theme of Sunshine. These bloggers are witty and bring a ray of sunshine into my day when they blog:

Neither Dempsey Nor Darcy – I love this blog! Humorous and great writing, too. “Our basic formula: go on date, come home from date, give men a rating of up to 5 Dempseys (for attractiveness and hair perfection) and up to 5 Darcys (for being a perfect gentleman) and then tell everyone why these ratings were warranted. – Be sure to look at their Meet the Gang page; it’s a fun surprise.

2. Christopher De Voss on Life, Humor, and Zombies – Funny stuff! He’s “One of the founding members of the now defunked Left Of Center Comedy Group.” I always look forward to his posts, and in our house, the Fiverr site will forever be known as the “fivver” site, because I was mispronouncing it.

3. Dumb Fear of the Day – A new blogger/writer who has elicited more than a few smiles from me. Even his blog titles are funny: “Bad Grammar Haunts My Nightmares. Seriously, I Wake Up Screaming “Oh Shit, I Wrote Your instead or You’re.” I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

Thank the person who nominated you:

Thank you, Tessa for nominating me. I haven’t been blogging long enough to feel worthy of any type of award, but appreciate your kindness.  I enjoy your blog posts and your willingness to share so much of what you learn on your writing journey. It’s been helpful!

Hubby Helps Brainstorm My Next Book

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Saturday, July 14, 2012. A true story  …

Me, sitting at kitchen table with notebook and pen: “Help me with my ideas for my next book. Susan’s going to Chicago to enter a cooking contest.”

Hubby, rummaging in kitchen cupboards for a chips and salsa snack: “Ok.”

Me: “Well, I have an idea for a sub-plot in the condo where they’ll be staying, but I need a doorman. What kind of doorman should I have?”

Hubby, setting bowls and snacks on the table: “It’s just a doorman.”

Me: “Ooh, maybe a female doorman, and she’ll get all snappy on Darby’s fine ass.”

Hubby: -blank stare in my direction-

Me: “Ok. Maybe not. I’ll think about that later. I don’t think they should do a lot of sightseeing, do you? They’ll only be there for a weekend, so there won’t be much time for sightseeing.”

Hubby: “When I’m out of town at trade shows, the last thing I want to do is sightsee before the show. They should have their thoughts on the cooking contest.”

Me, slightly whining: “But it will be a few weeks before Christmas, and Susan has to go shopping in Chicago. Ooh, I have to work a Santa into the story. And they have to go out to eat, and they should go to the top of the Hancock Building.”

Hubby: -blank stare in my direction-

Me: “I think I know how this can go. The Santa will be a detective in disguise watching and following my criminal. I need the criminal’s crime. What’s he into?

Hubby: “He’s a pedophile.”

Me, shocked: “Absolutely not. I’m not going there.”

Hubby: “Well, if you’re going to have a detective following him, it needs to be a felony.”

Me: “Yes, but it doesn’t have to be so serious. My books are fluffy. I need something easier.”

Hubby: “There are no fluffy felonies. He runs illegal weapons.”

Me: <sigh> “No, that’s not it.”

Hubby: “He sells body parts on the black market.”

Me, disgusted: “Oh my gosh! What is wrong with you?”

Hubby, gathering up snack to take to the den: “Have you got a better idea?”

Me, smiling: “He’s an art thief. Thank you so much for your help. I think I have the whole story now.”

Silly Pinterest

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I know how I wrote three books in such a short amount of time. I was able to do it because I wasn’t writing blog posts, reading blogs, commenting on blogs, and then, oh.my.gosh., playing with Pinterest.

I thought Pinterest was silly. What was the point? Bulletin boards with pictures stuck on them – big whoop. I’ve already admitted I’m a dolt when it comes to social media. One like on my Facebook page, and I’ve made one tweet on Twitter. I’m not ready to spend time on either yet, so that’s not really a complaint.

I recently read a social media post about Pinterest, and thought I should give it another look. One author is pinning indie books on her boards (with permission and usually by request), and they all link to Amazon. I think she’s an Amazon affiliate and will make money if people click through from her boards to buy. Very smart.

I did a lot of searching online while I was writing my books. It might be fun to do a board for each book with images of clothing, items, and locations that inspired some of my thoughts for my writing. I don’t have time for that right now, but I figured I could at least pin my books to one board.

I spent sooo much time this past weekend pinning on just two boards. I couldn’t stop. Of course I had to look at other boards as well – and follow people! And when I would go searching for something to pin, I would bounce from one idea to another until I had so many tabs open, even my computer was confused.

When I finally slowed down and looked at the finished (not really) result, I liked it. There’s something to be said for looking at things that are pleasing to you and make you happy.

I think I can use this to my advantage in the future, but for now, someone needs to take Pinterest away from me so I can edit my book.

Which Genre?

Why can’t choosing the right genre for your books be easier? I wouldn’t have any trouble with this if there was a Blonde-Run-Amuck genre.

Mystery is a genre of fiction in which a detective, either an amateur or a professional, solves a crime or a series of crimes.” – Susan doesn’t solve crimes. She simply ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, or she does something resulting in unexpected consequences. There is usually some element of mystery in the story, so I call them mysteries, but the books don’t fully fit the description.

“An adventure is an event or series of events that happens outside the course of the protagonist’s ordinary life, usually accompanied by danger, often by physical action.” – Susan definitely has adventure, but it’s usually the adventure of trying to stay alive because her own actions put her life in danger. This is probably closest to the description, but the books would look silly sitting on a shelf next to A Game of Thrones or a book by Clive Cussler.

The definition for chick-lit seems to be changing. Chick-lit started out being about women typically who were single, in their twenties, often living the big city life and dealing with issues related to dating and careers.” –or- “Chick-lit is fluffy, light-hearted, brain candy.” – Susan has a career, and she dates, but that’s not the main focus of the books. They are a lighter, breezy read, but there is danger and adventure as well. I wouldn’t mind if the books were categorized as chick-lit, but I’m not really sure this is where they belong either.

Romance – There is romance in the books, but it’s definitely secondary. There are no sex scenes, and the books are pretty squeaky clean. There are happily-ever-after endings, but I’m positive they shouldn’t be categorized as romance.

Humor – There is a humorous element, but there aren’t any jokes, and they’re not that funny.

My books are literally a mix of all five genres. And they’re pink. And I’m blonde. I give up.

Why can’t there simply be a pink genre?

Six Sentence Sunday

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I recently saw a blog post for Six Sentence Sunday. You simply pick any six sentences from your work, whether a work-in-progress or a published work, and post them to your blog on Sunday.

The six I’ve chosen for my Six Sentence Sunday debut are from Sin City Hunter, the third book in the Susan Hunter Mystery series.

After an incident at O’Hare Airport, star hockey player, Dell Grady, was highlighted on an evening sportscast hosted by Bob and Steve. Here are my six from the newscast . . .

He quite proudly proclaimed, “Oh, that was just Susan. I was giving her a lift to the gate, and let me tell you, it was great fun, and I’d like to do ‘er again.” He nodded to the camera and walked away from the reporter.

Jessie Manchip turned back to the camera and said with a big grin, “Well, guys, you heard it, too. It was just Susan, and Dell wants to do her again.”

Bob and Steve were laughing so hard neither of them could speak.

Anyone can join in. To participate and/or check out some other great sets of six, check out the site:  http://www.sixsunday.com/

Twitter – #sixsunday

Big Easy Hunter – C’est Fini

It’s shortly after midnight, and I finished my fourth book a few hours ago. I sat in my chair and smiled like an idiot for at least five minutes.

I love the opening of the movie Romancing the Stone with Kathleen Turner. She writes the last scene of her romance novel and sits there with a smile and a few tears as she pulls the last piece of paper from her typewriter. That’s the kind of satisfaction I felt when I finished today. I’ve had to grab a tissue more than a few times as I write. I never realized there would be such an emotional connection to the characters.

I was able to write almost 5,000 words the past two days. The book ended just as I hoped it would, and I was surprised by a twist just seven pages before the ending. I know that sounds silly, but I still marvel at how things pop into your head that weren’t planned.

The happiness of finishing the book came on the heels of a telephone call from my mother. She wanted to let me know that she had talked with her sister earlier in the day, and my aunt said, “My girls sure are loving Maddie’s books.” I didn’t know, but between my two cousins and one of their daughters, they account for five of my sales this month. I’m so excited about this.

Yes, it was more relatives, but one of my cousins read all three books, one right after the other, and said she loved them and can’t wait for the next one.

All I ever wanted to do was put something out there that would be entertaining, and I think that’s what I’m doing. Sunshine Hunter has some silly elements, and Big Apple Hunter tends to be a little more serious. By the time everyone winds up in Vegas in Sin City Hunter, there is a good mix of everything, and I think the humor works well. The upcoming book, Big Easy Hunter, definitely puts a smile on my face. I love this book. Bringing more characters – and dogs – into the story made for even more fun.

Plus, I haven’t left the reader hanging regarding the romance aspect. Susan doesn’t waffle from one book to the next as to whether she wants the guy or not. I’ve kept the relationship moving forward naturally.

For now – at least today – I’m over my angst about becoming a writer. Finishing the book and being so happy with the story was a morale booster.

It’s time to start making notes for the next adventure – Windy City Hunter.

Chasing the Shiny Things

We were online pretty early. One of my husband’s friends was a programmer with his head buried in DOS all day. His work sparked an interest in my husband, and it didn’t take long before we had a new Packard Bell 60 MHz Pentium computer. It had a 50 MB hard drive, and 8 MBs of memory. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that my little Nook Tablet has almost 14 gigabytes of storage.

I remember being amazed that I could go to the Louvre in Paris and look at works of art – and then download and print beautiful pictures. I wasted a lot of ink and paper back then because I couldn’t seem to stop myself from printing every colorful, shiny, pretty thing I found. There was something new to find every day.

The internet still fascinates me. I love doing research for my books. I stop right in the middle of whatever I’m writing, and scurry about the internet looking for answers. Even when I want to describe the clothes my characters are wearing, I stop and start surfing popular clothing stores.

I’m easily distracted. I was searching for a sundress for Susan in Sunshine Hunter, and when I found the perfect dress, it had been photographed on location in Tuscany. I spent the next hour looking at house rentals in Tuscany! But I always manage to get back to writing with the information I was seeking and am usually a little happier for the dash around the internet.

For Sin City Hunter, I learned to play craps. I spent a couple of days learning the rules, watching tutorials via YouTube, and practicing online via a simple flash-player. Oh, I could win at this game! I hurried over to the den and told my husband we really, really needed to go to a casino. He just shook his head and laughed at this most recent harebrained idea and turned back to the hockey game on television.

I also researched the most popular slot machines in Vegas. Bally’s has a new Betty Boop machine. I watched the machine played on YouTube, and then I found out that iTunes had an app of the machine. Ooh, hubby has an iPhone. I was back in the den telling him to at least spend $2.99 for my research because I needed an app.

I had his phone for two days while I played Betty Boop’s Love Meter. I had paper and pencil, and I would tell myself, “Ok, this is Mom’s turn on the machine.” I would then write down every spin and what happened. Susan’s mother won a lot of money. Then I would decide it was Susan’s turn. I actually stayed true to the winnings from my notes to my book. It was pretty obvious to me that the app pays out way more money than the real machine would, but it made for more fun in the book.

I like the research part of writing. There are still so many colorful, shiny, pretty things to be found.

I Wanted to Write a Foodie Mystery

I love to cook. I started out as a baker. Out of five children, I was the one who baked the cookies, made the brownies, and baked the cakes from scratch.

My dad was a great baker. He made a buttercream coffeecake that was out of this world. Every weekend in winter, he would be in the kitchen baking bread. When I was old enough, he taught me. I still remember the first time I baked it by myself. We took a loaf down the street to Grandma, and she proclaimed it to be as good as Dad’s. I was overjoyed.

Sometimes he would surprise me, and after we had made the bread, we’d make cinnamon rolls, or on rare occasions, homemade raised donuts.

I don’t remember when I crossed over from baker to cook, but I do remember my very first cookbook was Trader Vic’s Book of Mexican Cooking. My family acted as some pretty great guinea pigs while I worked through that book. I still use many of the recipes today.

At one time, I had over 100 cookbooks in my collection, and I didn’t just collect them, I cooked from them. I’ve thrown a few large parties and cooked all of the food myself. I think I’m a good candidate to write a foodie mystery.

But I have nothing. I think on it and dream on it, and there’s nothing there. There is poisoned food in my thoughts, and I’ve chopped people up with butcher knives. Blech! I’m not going there.

So, I did the next best thing. In my books, Susan and her neighbor across the hall, Darby, do a lot of cooking together. They make a lot of the same things I make with the same results – stunning failures or fantastic successes. They put their best recipes in a recipe box and call it the Keeper Box.

I put the Keeper Box on my Breezy Books web page. Clicking on it takes you to a page of some of the recipes that were cooked in the books. When the fourth book is done, I’ll have two more recipes to add – Summer Chicken and Rhubarb Pie with a Never-Fail Pie Crust.

I guess in my own way, I’m writing foodie mysteries after all.

Whacky Formatting and A Sales Report

When I published my books, I checked crucial formats that came out of Smashwords’ meatgrinder. Everything looked good in html, pdf, and epub. It wasn’t until I later downloaded Kindle for PC that I saw the first book (Sunshine Hunter) in the the mobi format for Kindle was pretty whack. There were quite a few pages in italics and several sections in bold. Even as I go back and look at my formatting, I can’t find these gremlins. The only solution would be to go nuclear by removing all formatting with Notepad and redo the formatting.

Then I would have to REPUBLISH! Oh.my.gosh! I am not sending that book up again. Especially since it’s fine everywhere but the mobi file, and most people would buy that format directly from Amazon anyway.

I didn’t use Smashwords for distribution on Amazon, so the books I uploaded there don’t have any of those irritations. At least one has some crazy big chapter headings, and a few other minor issues, but nothing to warrant republishing.

When I’m finished with my fourth book, I’m going to strip out all the formatting and get rid of any gremlins. I probably won’t need to do it as I think I’m getting better at using Word, but I do NOT want to go running and screaming down that republishing road again. I’d rather take the extra time and make sure everything is right.

On a separate note, we are day three into our ten-day vacation at home … and we are already exhausted. 🙂 We love having our house guest and other visitors, but aren’t used to activity all day long. I’ve tried to sneak a little time away at the computer, but haven’t been very successful. One of our visitors works at a Starbucks in Texas, and I slipped some business cards to her with my first book and my website advertised on them. She said she will make sure to tell her co-workers and friends about the books. Every little bit helps.

It will be a while before I find out if any books have sold at Barnes & Noble. I don’t have any way to know until they report to Smashwords. To my knowledge, since the first book was published on Smashwords and Amazon on May 12, my sales through June have been 38 books. This pleases me because I read where one successful self-publisher had only made about seven dollars in their first six months of self-publishing, and they had more books than I do. Things took off later for them.

I don’t know if my books will ever “take off,” but I like when I see that a purchase is made on the first book, and then a day or two later, purchases show up simultaneously on the second and third. I like to think someone liked the first book and has come back to grab the next two. Hopefully, they will grab the fourth as well.

Simply Writing Simple Words

I was elated yesterday to look in on my books at Amazon, and see that a 5-star review showed up for one of the books. It really helped to allay my fears that maybe I should quit writing.

I used to conduct training classes and write training manuals for a weight loss company. I never perceived the manuals to be creative writing, because I was simply writing down everything I said during the classes.

The people attending were from all walks of life – people with high school diplomas to franchise owners with college degrees. I remember my boss telling me that the manuals should be written at about a fifth- to seventh- grade level. He said it was simply for clarity of understanding, and the classes would move along more quickly. Information could be found and taken from the manuals more easily as well.

One of my trainers was trying to improve her vocabulary. It was fine when we were together, and we would laugh at how silly she sounded at times, but I told her she wasn’t to practice her newfound vocabulary words in the classroom. It had to be kept simple.

I’m not the best when it comes to vocabulary, but I’m not ignorant either. Two years of Latin helped me tremendously with the English language. I do get frustrated when I’m reading something (usually nonfiction), and I find myself reading a paragraph(s) over and over again until I understand what I just read. Sometimes the author is kind enough to say, “Simply put …” What was the point of the bloated paragraph full of five dollar words when the simply put version would have sufficed?

I guess that’s how I approach my writing. I don’t need to use a huge vocabulary or five dollar words for the type of book I’m writing. I don’t want to stop the flow of my reader by using a word or words that might cause them to wonder about the context of what they just read.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading the work of someone else that goes beyond the simplistic. My thoughts about word choices and writing style helped to put things into perspective for me today. The writing I’m doing is working for me because it’s a style I used years ago.

After I read the positive review, it lit a fire under me, and I was able to write yesterday and add another 3,000 words to my current book. I’m planning to self-publish it in July.

Blogging Freaks Me Out

In a few days, I’ll have been blogging for a month. I think I like it. There are some things that freak me out though.

I liked it when there were less than twenty visitors to my blog each day. Just a few people peeking in to see what I was doing while I try to write and publish a few books. I sort of panicked when 52 people showed up one day this week. Yikes! Where did they come from? And why?

My mind went on a freak out thinking that the new visitors were other authors shaking their heads. Who in their right mind would write three books in two months and then think they were good enough to publish? … Well, I guess I did.

People spend years honing their craft and agonizing over their words wanting to put out the very best work possible. I understand that, but when I found the Smashwords site, something went off inside me, and it just came out – three books in two months. I had to do it, and I had to publish them. When I look at my books on my Nook, it delights me to no end. And the fact that the few people I know who have read the books liked them; well, it’s just that much nicer.

I’ve been visiting other blogs and enjoying the time spent blog-hopping. I love fashion, photography, music, books, poetry, and so much other stuff. I find myself following people as they lose weight. I’m sad for people who share their struggles and wish I could hug them. I love the humorous blogs. This is a wonderful new world. I’ve purchased two books from indie writers. I want to put my money where my mouth is and help others who are finding their way as well. I won’t really stop following authors; there’s a lot to learn from them.

I was nominated for an award by lightningpen. I was kind of embarrassed, and didn’t really know what to think about it. I didn’t mean to ignore you, kind blogger, but I was so new to blogging and didn’t have a clue who else to nominate. I don’t understand everything about the blogging community yet, and I may revisit that nomination one day (unless it has an expiration date).

So, even though I’m not really comfortable yet with blogging, and there are days when it freaks me out, I’m pretty sure I like it and will keep plodding on for a while.

Creating Characters

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I feel so silly sometimes because I find myself smiling or even laughing at some of the things I have my characters say or do.

Many of the characters are cobbled together from people I’ve known in my life.  My parents were a lot of fun when we were kids, and it was easy to portray Susan’s mom and dad as fun-loving and to have her mother laugh so much. Some of Susan’s friends mirror the best qualities of some of my friends over the years.

I intend to create a character with some of my father-in-law’s characteristics and personality. That’s him in the picture above. June 11, 1947 was the day he was discharged from the service. He had been stationed in Germany, and this picture of him is from the day he returned to the States.

I love this picture. He’s not really smiling, but his face conveys joy, and I see the twinkle in his eye. That is one good-looking man. I find it humorous that my husband has been a natural blonde his entire life, yet our nephew is the spitting image of this picture.

My father-in-law was the postmaster in a small town for most of his adult life. He enjoyed life and was a kind and generous man. After he died, my husband had the portrait tattoo of him placed on his arm. I think the artist did a wonderful job matching the picture.

My husband memorialized his dad on his arm. I’m going to put him in one of my books.  

Sweating the Small Stuff

Self-publishing takes time. Time that could be spent writing is taken up with other details and even nagging worries.

For a month, I’ve been waiting patiently for my books to show up at Barnes & Noble. The books didn’t come up in a search by title, author, or ISBN. After a quick inquiry, I was told the books should be indexed just a few days after Smashwords ships, so I knew something was wrong.

Yesterday, a helpful customer service rep at Smashwords sent an email to me with the B&N links to all three books. I was a little flabbergasted, and I still don’t have a clue how she found them. Even after she sent the links, I still couldn’t bring up the books or my name through the B&N search feature. When I checked the links she provided, I saw that two of the books didn’t even show descriptions. I had a feeling I’d probably done something wrong, and it threw a damper on my morning.

Of course, I had to start searching to find out why the search didn’t work and what I could do about it. I read message boards and finally found where others from as far back as 2010 had the same problems – books not indexed in search with no description and/or cover image. I finally gave up and decided it would be more productive to update my website to reflect the new links.

Errands had to be run in the afternoon, and there were a few unexpected interruptions. By the time I sat down to write in the evening, I’d lost my writing mojo. I spent most of my time reading what was already written and doing some proofreading. Still productive, but not what I wanted to do.

Have you ever been expecting a package, and it doesn’t come, and it doesn’t come, and you finally write and say, “Where’s my package?” Then it usually shows up in the mail that day or the next, and you wasted your time and the sender’s. Before heading up to bed, I searched my name again. All three books showed up, all were searchable, and all had descriptions.

I simply have to ignore some of this stuff, or I’ll never get any writing done.

Grandma Would Have Been a Blogger

My grandmother was always smiling, and she was fun. My mother said that she and Grandma acted silly quite often, and her older sister thought they should act more mature. I remember she laughed a lot. She was born in 1897, and lived to be 88 years old. After her death, pages of some of her childhood memories were found. Some of them were typed; some were handwritten. She seemed to write something down when she remembered it. I thought I’d share some of her memories today.

~ I can recall so clearly it seems like only yesterday that I was a little girl wearing braids, pinafores, and in my bare feet with mud slushing up through my toes, making “mud pies.”

~ We lived up on a hill and when I’d bring the cows to the bottom of the hill, I’d grab on to one of the cow’s tails and away we would go … her pulling me up the hill. Oh, I had fun, but in a funny sort of way.

~ We had a big grape arbor just back of our house; it was like a fairy land. You could hardly see out, the vines were so thick. We would go in the house and beg for biscuits. Then we would split them open and put currants from the bushes on them and call them pies.

~ I don’t ever recall my father whipping me, but my mother made up for it, God rest her soul.

~ We had a big log barn … one of my sisters, older than I, got her finger cut off on one of those old logs when she was five years of age. My brother started to cut with the ax, as boys will do. She laid her hand on the log as he brought the ax down, so off went her finger. He went and hid. When they found him, he said, “I wouldn’t have done it for a ‘minion’ dollars.”

~ My brothers tormented me a lot, since I was the baby of the family. I took it very serious, and I didn’t think it was a bit nice.

~ We lived in the south, and those days we ate only corn bread and biscuits, and sometimes homemade bread. It was a task to get the corn to the grist mill to get it ground for corn meal. My brother and I would each have to tote a sack of corn slung over our shoulders. We had to climb a hill and go down the other side to get to the mill. But I liked the job mostly.

~ I liked coffee so well and drank it when I was a child at home. Now it seems odd that my mother let me drink it. My brother used to tell me that I drank so much coffee one could see the grounds in my forehead. Oh! That would make me furious!

~ My mother had twelve children. Three died in infancy. One died when she was five years old.

~ My great uncle used to come and spend the night with us. The adults would sit and tell ghost stories until bedtime. Then I’d be afraid to go upstairs to bed. My uncle told about someone having dogs that “treed” something in a brush pile and this man jumped up and down on the brush to chase it out. Supposedly a small coffin ran out of the brush pile and disappeared into the night. The dogs gave chase, but to no avail. I could never forget that ghost tale.

~ They used to carry mail by horseback, only ours (postman) rode a mule. He had to be different! I used to feel sorry for him when I’d see him at the post office, because he was so homely. In my childish mind, I thought he looked just like a small dried and wrinkled apple. He was little and short, and he had no teeth.

~ Our family was fairly lucky, just a few bad things happened. My other sister fell and broke her leg, my youngest brother shot his toe off while hunting with a shot gun, my other brother broke his arm and cut his leg real bad once while cutting timber. I had Typhoid fever. Mother had her hands full looking after us.

~ We kids very seldom got new shoes and when we did, we were crazy with joy. And if they squeaked when we walked that pleased us very much, because people would know they were new.

~ My mother fed all the tramps that came along if she had a thing to give them. She never let them leave hungry, and plenty of them came to our door.

~ When we would get company, my father would make me come and play the organ and sing, “Gentle Annie.” I would be as proud as punch. I can’t recall the words now. Father thought I was good and that made me think that I could perform real well, too.

~ Mother did her washings on a scrub board. We had no water in the house. No electric. She made her own soap, and we always butchered beef and hogs, dried lots of apples and green beans, peaches, etc.

~ My mother did all the sewing for us. I can remember she made outing flannel union suits for my younger brother, and they were pink. She knitted our stockings and socks for us. Oh, how they would itch! When I got old enough to wear black cotton stockings, I was tickled to death and so proud of them.

~ My grandfather would come to visit us (I adored him). He had a pear tree in his back yard, and we didn’t have any. He would bring us kids each a pear. Oh, how pleased we would be. He had a well, which had a bucket to let down with a rope to get the water. I sure liked to do that job.

~ My mother always used home remedies as much as possible. When the terrible flu epidemic came in 1918, mother treated everyone with peach tree bark and leaves made into a tea. We had no casualties in our family, but others were dying like flies. Four and five died in one family in different places.

~ My mother wore big long aprons tied around the waist. She carried things in her apron. In the spring, she would go to the woods and fields and gather wild greens and bring in her apron as full as it could be. How good those greens tasted to us!

~ All of us had a good sense of humor. We would laugh at everything and anything that was funny at all. I still am that way. They say laughter is one good medicine.

~ I wonder if people are as happy as we were then nowadays. They seem to be searching for something and can’t find it. I wouldn’t trade my childhood to anyone for anything. Even as poor as we were.

~ My father and mother died just two weeks apart. As I see it, this world is full of sadness and sorrow, yet there is plenty to enjoy. Like the blessed sunshine, beautiful flowers, nice trees, lovely birds to sing, little babies to play with and enjoy, beautiful scenery everywhere you look … that God put here for us to enjoy. My life has not been what you would call the happiest, but I’m looking forward to a happier life beyond these earthly scenes. My childhood memories pass through my mind most every day. They are gone beyond recall, but not forgotten.

Whining, Cutting Back, Cranky Pants … and finally, A Smile

I admit it – I’m spoiled. I’m not used to not getting my way or having what I want. But we ride a financial roller coaster, and this year the train is on the way down of the biggest hill. Sometimes I scream just for the fun of it.

We’re trying to make huge cutbacks. We unloaded the upright freezer and unplugged it. We only heated three rooms of our house over the winter. I don’t run the dishwasher as often or do small loads of laundry. When our son made some noises that he was thinking about moving out, we immediately backed the truck up to the door and started loading his stuff. The water and food bill have been cut dramatically.

It’s hot today. 86 degrees. I wouldn’t normally care, but we’ve stopped using the central air unless the humidity makes it feel like it’s raining in here. I don’t mind most of the cutbacks, but the loss of the air conditioning puts the cranky pants on me. It didn’t help that I finally did some laundry today and then ironed in the heat. Does anybody still iron?

I spent a huge chunk of yesterday writing. I made a lot of progress – another 7100 words. I love where the next book is going, and I wanted to write again today but haven’t been able to get there yet. Maybe in a couple of hours when it’s not so hot.

But the reason to sit down and blog about my whiny day is because something really cool happened just before I ran out to the grocery store. (I only went to the store so I could ride around in the truck with the air on. Kind of defeats the purpose of cutting back.)

I received an email through my website. The person said they read all three of my books this weekend and wanted to know if there were any more. She said they were great books, and she had a hard time putting them down. Isn’t that awesome?!

Ok, it was my niece.

But still, I almost never see her, and when we were at my sister’s birthday dinner last week, I told her that she could Amazon one-click my books and read them on her tablet. Obviously she did. She’s busy with two young children, so I’m delighted that she not only took the time to read the first book, but blazed through the other two as well. If she wouldn’t have liked the first one, she surely wouldn’t have bought the other two – and then write to tell me that she liked them.

My cranky pants aren’t bothering me quite so much now.

Surprise! You Can Buy a Review!

Writing a book, doing your own editing, self-publishing, and finally marketing isn’t a difficult task in some respects, but leaves me terrified in others.

Marketing is most definitely a downfall. I’ve already accepted my failure in social media, although I may revisit that later. I’m not good at asking family and friends to buy my books. I don’t post notices about my books on other sites or use a signature line for promotion. I guess this is where some of the satisfaction factor comes in. It will be nice if the books sell, but I’m really just so tickled (as my grandmother would say) to have written and published a few books with the hope of a few more to come. I realize there’s a fair amount of hubris in this self-publishing thing we do, and I find myself laughing quite a bit at my own folly.

Reviews are where the real terror comes in. I read reviews where the reviewer has used phrases such as “compelling characters” and “unforgettable read” or “page turner” and “extraordinary achievement.” Ha! I’m terrified for the day when one of those reviewers will stumble upon one of my books. I know what my books are, and I don’t present them as anything other than a light mystery, with a little humor, and a little romance. So how do you find the right people to guide them to your books? The people who will enjoy an easy, breezy read that will entertain them?

Last night I was perusing blogs. There is some fun stuff out there. Most people probably know that, but this is all pretty new to me. I actually love the voyeuristic quality of blogs. People from all over the world share and show us aspects of their lives, and it’s easy to get lost for hours jumping from one blog to another.

I happened onto another indie publisher’s blog. I don’t know enough blog protocol to know if it’s acceptable to mention another’s name in a blog post, so let me just say when I read these words in respect to publishing a second book, “Maybe I’ll be able to move on then… maybe not. Jeez, this sounds pitiful,” I knew I liked this person right away. It’s hard sometimes to move forward and sounding pitiful works itself in there, too. I clicked on the link for their book, and read the description. I was intrigued. But then I noticed the reviews! Professional reviews. One 4-star and two 5-star. I looked at the site for the reviews and was amazed. When you jump headlong into this like I did, it doesn’t take long to realize how much there is to learn.

The site gives free reviews. You only pay for them if you want them expedited. They publish 3-stars and up. If your review is one or two stars, they offer constructive criticism. The best part is the person who will read and review your book already likes the genre you submit. I wouldn’t have to worry that a person who prefers to read a vampire thriller will get stuck reading and reviewing my blonde-run-amuck story.

I’m going to try to carve out a bit of every day so I can blog-hop. I know there is more yet to find that will help me. Has my writing taken a hit since I starting blogging? You bet. But I am still writing, so I’m not too worried about it yet.

Oh, about the book from the writer I stumbled upon yesterday … I bought it a short while ago. Not only will I enjoy reading it, but it’s a small way to say thank you for pointing me in a direction that might help me in my self-publishing efforts.

Good Dog, Joe

We didn’t have pets when I was growing up. I brought a free dog home once. My dad took one look at the puppy’s gigantic paws and made me take him back. I don’t remember what type of dog he was, but Dad said he would be too big. I remember being sad.

When our son was ten, he and I were at our local flea market. He was looking around at everything, and I was digging through books. He tried to get me to come with him to see a dog. I put him off a couple of times, but he seemed so upset over the dog, I finally went to look. It was a German Shepherd puppy. He sat away from the other puppies in the corner of the pen. The dog looked so sad, I could see why our son’s heart went out to him.

A few hours later, we were the owners of our first dog, and two days later, we found out why he looked so sad. He was on death’s doorstep, and only a very large vet bill saved his life. He ended up being a very sweet, gentle dog and definitely a member of the family.

He was such a joy, we wanted him to have a brother. That hound dog over there to the right? That’s Joe, and he was the best dog ever. Both of those dogs were like children, but Joe was practically human. He knew exactly how to tell you what he wanted, he was always cheerful, and when I cried, he cried. I never knew how much joy two dogs could bring.

We got a little carried away and later added a beagle to the mix. A second beagle was rescued, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to tell family that we had four dogs in the house! Crazy dog people.

I’ll spare you the sad details, but many years later, we are down to one beagle – the first one that we brought home. He’s just a dog. Where the two big dogs had such huge personalities and were like children, the beagle is happy to see you for a minute, and then he’s off looking for something to get into.

I miss the other dogs, but especially Joe. I think about him every day. The two older dogs died within 30 days of each other, and it was a very hard time. Last December, I had several dreams where it seemed the two dogs came to me. I didn’t dream about them, they came to me to see me. It was so distressing, it reduced me to tears. I had to search online to see if it happened to other people, too. It did.

What better way to immortalize that wonderful hound dog, Joe, than to put him in my upcoming book. I talked with my niece yesterday, and she’ll start working on the cover soon. I gave Joe’s picture to her so he can share the spotlight on the cover. I’ve already written him in as a focal point in two chapters, and he’s going to accomplish some heroic feats as well.

Good dog, Joe.

Flitting Around

There are days when I flit from one thing to another. Even when I’m on a roll writing my book, I sometimes stop and start writing something else that popped into my head.

Yesterday, I was side-tracked by a 3,000 word short story. My mind wouldn’t let it go until it was fully typed. Only then could I go back to working on my book.

Occasionally something will flash across my mind, and I’m off and running across the internet as I search and read – whether it be a recipe, a blog, a news item, or shopping for books. I suppose something in my writing triggered the thought, shades of ADHD take over, and I have to run after it.

I found myself searching writing contests one day and came across The First Line contest. The next submissions are due by August 1, 2012, and the first line of your short story must be:

“A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street.”

I love the story-starter idea and already have a general idea for this story in my mind. It will probably come together in the middle of a chapter in my book, and I’ll have to drop everything to start writing for the contest.

Sometimes I concentrate on what I’m currently writing just before going to sleep, and when I wake up – whether in the middle of the night or in the morning – the answer, the solution, or the continuation is just there. My mind works it out in my sleep. I suppose that’s considered an old mind trick I learned years ago from brainstorming sessions at work. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go, and see how it works for you.

The First Line Contest:
Fiction is to be between 300 and 3,000 words. All submission guidelines can be read here: http://www.thefirstline.com/submission.htm

Tune Out the Noise

Yesterday, my husband and I took a two-hour ride through Amish country on the motorcycle. The day was sunny and 86 degrees; the route was full of sweeping curves and rolling hills. We left during the hottest part of the afternoon. It’s my favorite time to ride.

I listen to my mp3 player on the loudest setting. I tend to listen to top 40 with a little hip-hop thrown in. Before we left, I added Rita Ora’s new song, How We Do (Party), to my list.  Wild Ones by Flo Rida is another recent addition, and a ride isn’t complete without playing Uprising by Muse as we head back into town.

I don’t know what it is about listening to loud music on the motorcycle, but I think about my writing at the same time and ideas just keep coming. Yesterday, I worked out a short story from beginning to end. I don’t have time to write it yet, so I jotted down notes for later.

I know I’m a Type A personality, and I’ve always been a little hyper. When I worked in an office setting, I worked best under pressure. I tend to do everything a bit like a whirlwind. It’s not uncommon for my husband to find me at my desk with music blaring while I’m working on my book. But then, I grew up with four siblings. There was a lot of noise in our household. If you wanted to read or do homework, you learned to tune out the noise.

I can’t write when it’s quiet. The silence is deafening.

Social Media Made Me Crazy

At least it did for a week.

I never had time for Facebook or Twitter. I was busy from morning ‘til night, and although I did my fair share of surfing and reading random things online, to actually devote time to something that might require minute by minute attention was too much for me.

Then I became an author. The general consensus for marketing your book online is social media. I set up a Twitter account and started searching hashtags for like-minded people who might be interested in reading something considered a beach read – a book you take to the beach for an easy, breezy, read.

I was quickly overwhelmed. I saw authors who seemed to tweet for hours at a time, readers who couldn’t possibly have time to read because they were tweeting all day, and massive amounts of people creating a cacophony of words across the tweetscape. It was like going down the rabbit hole.

I still haven’t made a single tweet. I did learn something new while I was hanging around there. I ran into an editor who tweeted about words that drive editors batty. “That” being one of them. It made me laugh – really laugh. When I thought I needed extra word count, “that” was one of the words I thought would work well for filler. We use it so often in our own speech, so I thought it would sound natural. Now that I know, I’ve tried to use it more judiciously.

Some of the other words she shared were: just, really, very, so, immediately, suddenly, oh, anyway, little, bit, then, only, and look.  This may be writing 101 to many people, but since I’ve never taken that course, it was good to know.

Facebook was next on the list. I set up my page, but really didn’t know what to do with it. I made a few likes here and there, added information about my books, and tried to think of something to say. This was going nowhere fast. I realized I’m a dolt when it comes to social media.

So many of my writing ideas pop into my head at the most absurd times of day, and that’s how my blog came to be. I didn’t want to blog. I’m actually a private person, and I don’t want people to know about my personal life, but the idea showed up one day, and it was kind of a loud thought. I searched for reviews on blog sites, and WordPress came up often. I put it off for a couple of days, but the noise was still in my head. Being an author is new to me, and I really did want to chronicle the adventure, so I gave in and joined the WordPress community.

I told my family I was blogging because it was all the social media I could manage at this time. It brought laughter and more head shaking. Will I be embarrassing them? You bet I will.

Erotica (Blush)

I’ve been living in the world of children’s books far too long. When I do read a book for an adult, it’s usually a foodie mystery, a cozy, or someone like Vince Flynn or Brad Thor. Occasionally, I read a biography.

Time constraints have kept me from reading very much over the years, but since my husband dragged me kicking and screaming into the digital age, and I now own a Nook Tablet, I’ve found myself reading again. I thought I would never give up hardcover books with dustjackets. I love everything about them – the weight, the smell, and even turning the pages. Who knew I would also love tapping a little digital device and reading in bed, in the car, in waiting rooms, etc.

My sister-in-law owns a Kindle. We talked one day about the different types of books we read, and I told her I had seen a free Harlequin that morning as she likes to read those. She asked if I had ever read any of the Harlequin Blaze books, and then she sort of fanned herself, and said “Phew!” Well, I assumed she meant the sexual tension was heavy, but when I finally looked at one, I think I sat with my mouth hanging open.  This was today’s romance book? I told my husband it felt like reading porn. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was just taken aback and didn’t realize that such descriptive writing was typical these days.

Since then, I’ve seen where erotica is a huge market, and some of the authors who self-publish in this genre are doing very well financially.

I couldn’t work on my book for a few days after this new knowledge because graphic scenes of Susan Hunter doing all manner of sexual things with the characters in the book starting flowing through my mind. That could be one naughty girl.

I finally managed to get my mind wrapped back around how I really want my books to be, and I was able to put her clothes back on.

I started writing again.

Walking the Streets of New York City

Shortly before I finished my first book, the story for the second book started rolling around in my head. While I waited on others to read and proofread, I started writing again. The first book took my main character to Florida; this time I wanted her to go to New York.

I’ve been to New York City twice by myself. The first time, my boss asked me to fly up on a Friday afternoon to deliver his passport to him at the airport. Instead of turning around and flying right back home as he expected, I took a cab to the St. Moritz Hotel and stayed the weekend. The second time, I won a contest at work. The prize was a trip for two to Disneyworld. Disneyworld? I traded my tickets in at the travel agency for a weekend in New York City with a girlfriend. A few days before we were to leave, she had to cancel, so I went by myself. I had a blast on both trips.

As I’m writing my book, I know I want Susan to walk around the city, but I don’t remember enough details to write from memory. I will never again complain about the slow-moving Google car that comes through town and takes pictures. I toggled back and forth between the Google map of the city and the street view. The street view is amazing, and I spent a couple of days with it walking around New York City reliving memories and plotting Susan’s route. I have a healthy respect for writers before the internet age. Research for everything must have been so much more difficult then.

I currently have Susan in New Orleans. I’ve been there before, too. I’ve already spent a few hours walking around the city via Google Street View. I don’t need to do it for this book, but I can’t make myself stop as I look back over fond memories.

Recalculating … Republish!

After I found the Smashwords site, I downloaded Mark Coker’s Style Guide. The book “offers simple step-by-step instructions to create, format and publish an ebook.” I took the time to read it front to back.

The night I decided to do the formatting, I sat with the guide opened in my Nook and went page by page until I came to sections that pertained to me. I took their advice and changed the style to first-line indents. I turned on the show/hide for paragraphs and formatting and made a fast pass through the book. I was surprised to see that I had several forced page returns rather than a simple return indicating the end of a paragraph.

It wasn’t noted in the style guide, but after perusing sites regarding formatting, I happened upon a discussion of one space or two after a sentence. The resounding opinion, especially from editors, was one space. My default has always been two, and it’s going to take a long time to break that habit, so I had to do a find/replace on two spaces to one space.

There was one section where it very clearly stated DO NOT USE both first line indents and the block style. It was even repeated and noted as one of the most common errors made. I was good there because I had already set up the first-line indents.

The step-by-step guide to building the linked Table of Contents was great. Even though a bit time-consuming, it was easy and turned out right the first time. After that, it was simple to add the front matter, information about upcoming books at the end, and embed a cover picture at the beginning.

It was time. I was going to publish my first eBook. I filled out all the necessary information, held my breath, and pushed the button. I could see it going through the Smashwords meatgrinder. Everything was great and all conversions made, but the AutoVetter had a problem. My heart sank.

The notice said I used both first-line indents and the block style. If Microsoft Word wasn’t so foreign to me, maybe it would have been easier, but I finally found that I hadn’t changed the after (paragraph) spacing to 0. I made the changes and hit REPUBLISH. Everything was fine now.

Until my husband looked at the sample a few days later and found an error just a few pages in! The word “looked” should have been “look.” A spell-checker wouldn’t have found it, and proofreaders glossed over it as well. REPUBLISH! A week later I found an error in the description for the book. A word in the title was changed, and I forgot to change it in the description. REPUBLISH!

Sunshine Hunter was republished four times before I left the poor thing alone. It finally made its way into the Smashwords premium catalog and is slowly being distributed to their outlets.

Formatting was easier than I thought it would be. I’m grateful Mark Coker put a book out there to assist authors, and I’m especially grateful for the link that reads: Upload New Version.

When Everything Lines Up In the Universe … And the Lottery

I wrote last time that my brother-in-law did the artwork for the cover of my cookbook. Sadly, he died much too young just over a year ago. I couldn’t think of anyone else who could help me with a cover for my Susan Hunter book.

I tried cobbling my own cover together with my desktop publisher by using stock photos and good-looking fonts, but nothing looked right or conveyed the light, breezy theme of the book. I finally asked my sister if she would ask her daughter to give me a hand.

In the meantime, I thought I should see about getting a website for the book. I was ready to call our internet provider and request a domain in my name when it dawned on me that I already had a website I wasn’t using, and OH.MY.GOSH, I had named it Breezy Books when I set it up six years ago. It wasn’t my main website and it’s been dormant for several years. My nickname when I played racquetball was Breezy (dumb blonde act, not quite pumped up full air – or so they said), and who knew all these years later that goofy nickname would still serve me well.

My sister told me that my niece would be happy to design a cover for me. She takes after her father and is quite artistic herself. I was ready to have her start the work, but I didn’t have the extra money to pay her, so I was going to have to wait a while. I would never take her for granted and ask her to do it for free even though that’s what I did to her dad. 🙂

I’m not averse to playing the lottery. You have to be brave though to spend $20 on a scratch-off ticket, and I did just that a few days later. Woo-hoo! It was a $500 winner. I paid a few bills with the money and then set some back for three covers because I was pretty sure I could write three books for the series. My niece started right away on the first one.

I’m delighted with her work. She captured the fun, girlie – and pink – atmosphere of the story. When I sent a check to her, I included the copy of my cookbook that I found at the used book sale. She was surprised and said she had obviously seen the cookbook in her mom’s cupboard for years, but she never knew her dad had done the artwork. I know he would be proud of the work she has done for me. I think it’s pretty neat that two generations of one family have helped me with my self-publishing efforts.

The perfect website already in my possession. The perfect book cover. Priceless.

A Self-Published Cookbook

I loved working at the racquetball club. There were a lot of cute guys, fun girls, and getting paid to have a good time was pretty great.  There were occasions when I would pull a cleaning detail, and I wanted to file a complaint when I chipped a brand new French manicure on a urinal in the men’s locker room, but mostly, it was a blast.

I loved to cook as well, and my collection of over 100 cookbooks had yielded some delicious recipes. One year for Christmas, I decided to make recipes cards of some of my favorites and put them in recipe boxes to give as gifts. What a lot of handwriting, and it soon became tiring, but I’m not a quitter.

One quiet Sunday afternoon at the racquetball club, I worked on the cards. One of the guys came down from the locker room, handed his yucky, wet towel to me, and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he said, “Maddie, you know how to type. Why don’t you make your own cookbook?”

Well, duh! You know those cookbooks you get from women’s groups and churches? They all seem to be the same size and have those punch-and-bind combs down the side. Yep. That’s what I did. I worked at the weight loss center during the day, worked and played racquetball at night, and typed a cookbook in the middle of the night.

That poor family of mine I keep talking about … well, they spent an entire weekend walking around a huge conference table, manually collating pages, and using a punch-and-bind machine to put the darn things together. I not only had Christmas presents, but I also had books for consignment shops. I’ve used my own copy so much it has become worn and tattered. I was delighted to find a like-new copy at a used library book sale a few years ago, and I set it aside.

It still feels good to see the finished product. It was especially neat because my brother-in-law, who was quite artistic, did some really good artwork for the cover.

It was my first publishing attempt. It was 500 copies.

First Reviews

March 1, 2012. My book was finally done. Now what?

I needed to find out if it was good enough to publish on Smashwords. Those tough critics who call themselves my family would be the first place to start.

My sister doesn’t have an eReader or read online, so I had to print a hard copy for her. I asked her to look for typos and obvious errors as well as anything that was clunky when she read it – or if something simply didn’t make sense. I told her I trusted her to tell me if it wasn’t any good and to stop me if I was embarrassing myself.

She called a couple days later and said, “I loved it!” Well, she is my sister after all. But she was off work recovering from a surgery for all of January, and she had a stack of books from the library. She said no matter how hard she tried, none of them held her interest. She assured me that my book was an easy read, and when she put it down, she couldn’t wait to get back to it to find out what happened next.

My mother was so cranky about my writing a book, I really didn’t want her to read it. But after getting positive feedback from my sister, I thought I’d give the copy to Mom and let the chips fall where they may.

She read it in a day and called that evening. She was quite prim as she said, “Maddie, I’m calling to tell you what I thought about your book.” Then she hesitated.

Crikey, Mom, just spit it out.

She finally said, “I liked it.”

Well, knock me over with a feather! She told me that she’d take a break from my book and try to watch something on television, but she kept thinking about the book and had to go back to reading. She, too, thought it was an easy read, and she enjoyed it.

Awesome. Now I had to figure out how to get a cover.

50,000 Words

How many words should my book be? I struggled with this for a while. I’ve read that traditional publishers want a first novel to be at least 60,000 words. 75,000-80,000 is the norm for a mystery.

Thank goodness I’m publishing my own books and don’t have to hit those numbers. I knew I didn’t want my books to be considered novellas, so I hoped to at least hit the 50,000 word mark. Smashwords considers a book to be a full novel at that number of words.

When I finished the first book, it was just under where I wanted it to be.  A first rewrite added enough words to push it over 50,000 words. I read where an editor commented that a 50,000 word book would easily turn into 65,000 words or more on a rewrite and edit. Ha! There was no way I was adding another 15,000 words of filler to the book.

I suppose I’m somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to description. Some people write wonderful descriptions and paint fabulous images across your mind of every little thing that is happening in a story. I don’t always think to tell you that someone was picking at a napkin or brushing toast crumbs off of their shirt while they were speaking. I sort of don’t care either. It doesn’t take away or add to a story for me. My mother admits to skipping entire pages in a book just to get past descriptive writing of locales and history. It just confirms for me the beauty of writing is that you don’t have to please everyone.

Besides, I’m writing something breezy. My market is a niche. My intent is to provide a few hours of entertainment. Three of the books in the series are finished, and all three have naturally fallen into the 51,000 – 56,000 word range. It seems to be the right spot for me.

Write About What You Know

It was Stephen King’s fault that I slept with the lights on for weeks at a time.

We live in a 107-year-old house with two staircases and a creepy basement. I try not to watch horror flicks or read anything that will send my imagination into overdrive and cause our creaky old house to scare me in the middle of the night. Now that vampires, zombies, and paranormal activity are all the rage in fiction, I realize Stephen King and our house have kept me from capitalizing on the movement.

I thought about writing a foodie mystery. I love to cook, and books that tie into cooking or the food industry are also big in the mystery genre. I tried to come up with a culinary idea but to no avail.

I read somewhere that you should write about what you know. That finally sent me in the right direction. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen a book yet where the main character worked in a weight loss center by day and a racquetball club by night. I did both, and both were a hoot – especially since there was a lot of drinking at the latter.

I’ve read a few book reviews where someone will complain that a book was too silly and some of the things that happened weren’t believable. People can’t argue with your own experiences. Writing from experience and writing about what you know have kept me from going too far into the realm of silly. If someone would write to me and say there’s no such thing as a disappearing bathing suit, I could write back with confidence and say, “Just ask my family. I held my head up high as I came out of the pool at that lovely hotel in Florida. They were embarrassed when they had to tell me that my suit was see-through when it was wet.”

Write about what you know.

Where Does This Stuff Come From?

Writing has surprised me.

Once I had Susan’s story in mind, the words came easily. What I wasn’t prepared for were the unexpected twists and turns. When Susan was stopped outside her apartment door by a neighbor who lived across the hall, I not only didn’t know he lived there, but I was surprised to find out he was her best friend! I didn’t intend to write him into the story, but he has been one of my favorite characters, and I can’t imagine the books without him. Where did he come from?

Sometimes I’ll write a scene and several chapters later another event happens that perfectly ties in with the previous event. It wasn’t predetermined, and I have to sit and giggle for a few minutes. Characters show up and things happen that take me completely by surprise. I had no idea writing was like this and would be so entertaining.

Every day I can’t wait to start writing again so I can find out what happens next.

Family Matters

After writing several chapters, I knew I was turning out something I could publish on Smashwords, and it was time to tell my family.

My husband and our son were talking in the kitchen; I joined them. I’m sure the grin on my face made them think I had done something to embarrass them yet again. My husband looked at me and asked a simple, “What now?”

When I announced I was writing a book, our son’s reaction was to bend over at the waist with laughter. My husband starting laughing, too, then wanted to know what it was about.

I told them it was a mystery with a little romance and a little humor. That brought more laughter, and our son walked away shaking his head. I filled my husband in on this fantastic place called Smashwords. I told him he could write a story about anything, publish it there, and then sell it. I told him that my book wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be entertaining.

My sister reads a lot of books from the library. When I told her I was writing a book, she laughed. Obviously, my reputation precedes me.

My mother has always been an avid reader. My colorful life has given her many headaches. When I told her I was writing a book, she frowned. When I told her what the book was about, she was irritated. I know she was thinking I would write something that would embarrass her.

Family. They can be tough critics.

Hey, Universe. Where’s My Book?

I once read that J. K. Rowling had the idea for Harry Potter just pop into her head out of nowhere. She said the story was just there for her to discover.

Well, how fair is that?

My mind is vacant enough at times that I would think the universe could plop a good story into my head. I fiddled around for years trying to write children’s picture books, but after seeing so many interesting short stories at Smashwords, I realized I was in the wrong genre.

I’ve lived a colorful life so far. People who know me really do shake their heads, laugh, and say, “You should write a book.” I know no one wants to read about my life, and I don’t want to read about my neighbor’s life. But I could weave some of my experiences into Susan Hunter’s life.

Once I had that realization, the first book was just there, and I couldn’t write it down fast enough.

Blogging and Library Book Sales

I’m a little late to the blogging scene. It dawned on me about a week ago that I should start a blog and chronicle some of this excursion into the world of writing and self-publishing.

Have you ever been to a book sale at your local library? Tireless workers, many of them volunteer senior citizens, organize the discarded and donated books in a room set aside specifically for the sale. If you were a diehard buyer like I was, you’d show up on the preview night, pay a premium to get in the door, and then run with the stampede to try and see the best and most valuable books first – all for 25 cents to a dollar each.

I wish I had blogged those years of traipsing to sales all over the state. That would have been some fun reading. I saw some pretty intense fights over books as well as some all-around nastiness. But I met wonderful people, too. Standing in line for up to three hours before a sale provided a lot of time for us regulars to get to know each other – and tell some pretty crazy stories. Schmoozing in a book sale line was always entertaining and usually the best part of the sale. Our son complains on occasion that he needs therapy because he spent his childhood under tables guarding our book picks at library book sales. It truly was an adventure.

I’m expecting this foray into self-publishing will be an adventure, too, and I want to put this one into words.

Bushes and Smashwords

About that children’s book I shopped around …

Stuck in the Bushes is a repetitive picture book that elicits giggles from children as the Stuck family cries from the bushes for an entire night. I decided to look around for a place to self-publish it as an ebook and stumbled upon Smashwords.

I think I spent a couple of days poring over that site. I downloaded books for my Nook, but I was mostly fascinated by the variety of self-published items. They ranged from stories of only a few hundred words to epic novels.

As I looked deeper into formatting a children’s book, I realized there would be quite a few hurdles, especially with the artwork. I put the story back in the drawer, but I visited Smashwords every day. I read samples and appreciated that people were so brave to just put their work out there.

I read once that if you wanted to be a writer, you should just write. Write something every day even if it’s only a paragraph. It was 11:00 one evening, and a thought popped into my head. I opened a blank page in Word, and one paragraph came out:

My perfectly restored ‘67 Chevy Chevelle careened around the corner at Walsh and Park, the tires squealing in an effort to get my attention. I was angry, and my mind was reeling. I was thinking of all the ways I wanted to kill him. People on the sidewalk were staring at me as I flew by, and I knew I had to get a grip on more than just the steering wheel. Carbide City was known for speed traps, and I didn’t need another ticket. Why are restored muscle cars magnets for cops and tickets anyway?

I was on my way.

My Cluttered Desk

My desk is always cluttered. Books are stacked to my right, a mountain of paper needing a home or the trash bin is to my left. Pieces of mail are scattered in the open areas as are pens, canceled checks, receipts, and sticky notes. I even see hair bands and my mp3 player from the last ride on the motorcycle with my husband.

Clearing the desk is a chore, so I don’t do it very often. The last time I filed papers, I couldn’t help myself and pulled out my rejection notices for my children’s book. Two of them had handwritten notes on them.  “Please try again!” was on one rejection, “Cute idea” was on the other. A writer friend told me that it was unusual to receive handwritten notes on rejection letters, and I shouldn’t give up.

I did give up – on children’s books. At least for now. Susan Hunter showed up.